Breakthrough in surrogacy mix-up case

Breakthrough in surrogacy mix-up case

It's one of the most fundamental human desires – to have a child. But one couple went to extraordinary lengths – surrogacy in a foreign country – to have that child, and something went horribly wrong. The couple ended up with a baby who has no biological relationship to them.

The heart-breaking mix-up was identified when a DNA test revealed the baby had no genetic connection to either the husband or the egg donor.

3D Investigates went searching in Thailand to find out how, and who's to blame.

Thailand has had a thriving reproductive tourism industry, with IVF and surrogacy for couples from all over the world. But this case ended in the most distressing way, with a Kiwi family told to walk away and leave a newborn baby to grow up in a Thai orphanage.

There's been an allegation of extortion. It's been a legal and emotional nightmare that had begun with so much promise, with the birth of a healthy baby boy.

That process began five years ago when the couple decided they wanted a sibling for the son they already had. But complications from the first pregnancy meant surrogacy and IVF was their only option. They decided on going to Thailand, partly because the wife is from there.

The clinic they went through in Chiang Mai is very reputable. Also giving them confidence was legal advice from experienced family lawyer Seonaid (Shona) Abernethy.

The arrangement was Father X's sperm (he wishes to remain anonymous), a donor egg from a family member and a separate surrogate mother.

After Baby X was born in Chiang Mai, as part of the process of getting him home, New Zealand Immigration required a DNA test, carried out at a London lab – just the usual practice to be certain of the genetic connection.

"Straight away I didn't believe it at all," says Father X.

"It was a total shock. We all thought it was a mistake. We thought it had to be a mistake. I remember speaking to the Bangkok New Zealand Immigration agency and they said London doesn't make these mistakes. But there were second tests done anyway."

Three DNA tests proved the child had no genetic connection to them at all. But it didn't matter to Father X. He considered the child theirs and loved him, and so began a complicated legal process to be able to adopt the child they wanted so much to keep.

It was complicated because without knowing who the genetic parents are, there was no way of knowing whether he was free for adoption. He had no legal identity. He was stateless.

They were being told on numerous occasions by legal professionals that they had no chance of succeeding in adopting the child.

They fought and eventually succeeded in adopting Baby X, but another huge question remains.

A local senior Ministry of Health official was alarmed by the case and has agreed to help investigate. His department has authority over the clinic and hospitals and the power to investigate the mistake.

He says the clinic and hospitals can be compelled to provide the records, and he believes he can find out the truth of where Baby X comes from. He says he will not leave this case behind and he will find the facts.

It could be the breakthrough Father X needs – some official pressure on the doctors, the clinics and the hospitals involved to provide the answers.

It would mean a child, who now has citizenship and a loving family back in New Zealand, will be able to grow up knowing who he is.

Watch the video for the full 3D report.