Social Question

eden2eve's avatar

Should there be intensive background checks for surrogate mothers or for women prior to allowing them access to artificial insemination?

Asked by eden2eve (3693points) May 20th, 2010

A woman I was well acquainted with was in both of those situations at different times. At roughly 20 years of age, she was selected to serve as a surrogate mother for a family in California, and there were several attempts which were not successful. At this time she had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. This took place approximately twenty years ago.

Her condition continued to deteriorate, and she was hospitalized multiple times, being again diagnosed with Bipolar, and also Borderline Personality Disorder.

Subsequently, after giving birth to three children who were removed from her care by their fathers, she sought and received artificial insemination, stating to a party that she wanted to have a child that no one could take away from her. She was unsuccessful in becoming pregnant, fortunately, and when she consulted doctors it was discovered that she had ovarian cancer. Soon thereafter she took her life. This was about five years ago.

I was not privy to such details, but obviously, if there were checks, or psychological testing done, they couldn’t have been too thorough, because there was much medical history on her, and even acquaintances were able to discern that something wasn’t right with her.

Was this an isolated case? Do you think that there are more stringent investigations in place now for these medical procedures?

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16 Answers

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

No – it’s her God-given right to procreate. Being a surrogate for another family is different, and all the reputable companies do extensive background checks on their surrogates even though it isn’t always required by law.

cookieman's avatar

Before we could adopt my daughter, the agency conducted a series of thorough background checks on us (criminal, employment, financial, degrees received, psychological, medical).

I have no problem having this applied in the situations you mention.

Although, I admit, it’s unlikely to happen in the case of insemenation as many people (demonstrated above) feel that getting pregnant is a “god given” right (whoever the hell “god” is).

reverie's avatar

Gosh, that’s a really tragic story. Poor woman.

I don’t think there should be background checks or restrictions on women wanting to pay for and become pregnant through artificial insemination. I believe it would be grossly unfair to discriminate against this woman (or anyone) based on a set of standards that we don’t apply to people wanting to produce children in the usual way. If someone wishes to become pregnant, then it’s really nobody’s business to decide whether or not that should happen, other than the woman herself.

Since we can’t prevent “unsuitable” parents having sex and producing children together, it seems to me that it would be a rather distasteful double standard to prevent pregnancy through artificial insemination, because the woman wants to choose that pregnancy method, for whatever reason. Let’s say she wants a child but doesn’t have a partner, and therefore chooses artificial insemination – wouldn’t you think it unfair that she has to be vetted for suitability, yet someone in a relationship (who may be equally, or more “dysfunctional”) can just have children without any sort of restriction? If artificial insemination required a background check, then I would argue that everyone who brings life into this world should be vetted too, since the responsibility is exactly the same… and I think advocation of either of those things would be ridiculous.

I think surrogacy and adoption are other issues entirely, and I have very little knowledge of those topics (particularly surrogacy), so I wouldn’t want to make any sorts of judgements about that. As @cprevite says, very strict vetting procedures exist for adoption, and I think this is entirely sensible – if the state have the care of a child, and there is a choice of it going to a much more “suitable” family over a less suitable family, then clearly it would be silly to choose to let the child go to a family where it may not receive the best opportunities in life. However, I just don’t think this situation is really comparable to the situation of disallowing particular people to become pregnant, for whatever reason.

cookieman's avatar

@reverie: I complete understand your point.

That being said, I also wouldn’t mind “people wanting to produce children in the usual way” being vetted either. Particularly with what I’ve seen while my my wife was a social worker then probation officer for twelve years.

But I realize how unrealistic that is. In real life, your assessment of the situation is completely correct. But I can dream.

Coloma's avatar

My 2 cents, aside from whats already been discussed, I think that there has been a real pop psych trend the last number of years to label people with all sorts of personailty disorders, such as Borderline etc.

While these conditions do exist, the fact of the matter is most of the so called personality disorders, ( aside from a sociopathic or severely sociopath/narcissistic type ) are nothing more than fancy labels for emotional IMMATURITY!

Unless there is a history of criminal behavior or violence I think tossing around these stigmatized psych labels so freely is very damaging.

cookieman's avatar

@Coloma: What if a person has been diagnosed by a physician as such? Are doctors also too freely using these labels?

Coloma's avatar


I am a psych buff, some background, not credentialed, and yes, I believe so.

I believe the focus needs to be on the positive, not the pathological, unless, as I mentioned, there is a serious threat to oneself or others.

There has been a glut of labeling the these disorders the last few decades and it is, to me, throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

There is a shift towards positive psychology and dropping stigmatizing labels that sub-consciously keep people stuck in their dysfunction by implying they are hopelessly damaged.

cookieman's avatar

@Coloma: Thank you for the clarification.

reverie's avatar

Sorry, I know this is a little off-topic from the question, but…

@Coloma, I’m currently doing a PhD in psychology, and I work in a research clinic that studies and treats patients with a variety of mental health problems, including mood and personality disorders.

Whilst I understand your viewpoint, there is nothing “so called” about “most” of the personality disorders. Bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder have a lot of diagnostic similarity, so for someone to receive both of those diagnoses is not particularly abnormal, in clinical terms. Whilst I understand the controversies that exist around the identification of some personality disorders, it’s a really complicated topic and it certainly shouldn’t be dismissed as “emotional immaturity”. By all means, it’s entirely sensible to be sceptical about the way disorders are identified and diagnosed, but people shouldn’t disregard the work that has already been done to form these diagnostic guidelines in the first place.

I absolutely, whole-heartedly agree that people should not self-diagnose and bandy about terms that they do not really understand, but at the same time, someone doesn’t need to have a “history of criminal behaviour or violence” for those terms to be correctly applied. In fact, I would go so far as to say that to think those terms should only be applied under those conditions actually contributes to the stigma which you refer to. In the example given in this question, I don’t think there’s any evidence to suggest that these labels were being “tossed around” – the woman in question eventually committed suicide, so it’s highly likely that she was experiencing serious mental health problems.

Like you, I see the very negative side to diagnostic labelling, but a focus on pathology is essential sometimes – you can’t tell me that if someone is experiencing debilitating episodes of mania followed by deep, suicidal depression that you might find in someone with bipolar disorder that we should just “focus on the positive” instead of addressing their symptoms head-on. Surely, a balance of identifying pathological problems, whilst respecting the person as an individual, and understanding that they exist as a person far beyond their psychiatric label we’ve applied to them, is the right way to go. I also agree that diagnostic labelling isn’t something that should be taken lightly, but when diagnoses are made responsibly and accurately, for that person, it can be a tremendously positive thing, and help them to access the treatments and resources that can help experience a better quality of life.

eden2eve's avatar

Thank you!
That was a very helpful answer. The person in question also was sexually abusive to her children, and the children of others who were in her care. I don’t know if that would affect people’s opinions… but I am just so very grateful that none of her attempts to create more life were successful.

My question on the insemination side would be, does the donor have a right to expect that his genetic material would go to someone who be capable of taking appropriate care of his biological offspring? Since he would have no ability to observe or protect, as the fathers of her other children do, does he have any rights?

tinyfaery's avatar

@reverie Thank you. Fluther is prone to misinformation due to laypersons insisting they know more or better than trained professionals. Though, I am one of those laypeople, playing with someone’s mental health in dangerous.

RedPowerLady's avatar

No for several reasons listed above.
However I do believe we should implement child development/parenting classes as mandatory in high school.

Coloma's avatar


Well said, and I agree, serious mental health issues, and those of brain chemistry dysfunction are not part of what I am speaking of and certainly I would not attempt to diagnose anyone in real life or on the web.

I do know though that many so called personality disorders do diminish markedly in midlife for many.

Impulse control amongst others of the emotionally/mentally, immature.
I do think that there is still a risk of attaching labels that attempt to define and or reduce the totality of ones complex humanity into a tidy little compartmentalized catch all.

Everything else aside, I do agree that intervention is critical in many of these situations.

Thanks for your near professional sharings. Congrats on your PhD!

perspicacious's avatar

Background checks do not provide medical history and suggesting psychological testing for every woman seeking invitro is ridiculous.

perspicacious's avatar

@reverie Maybe one day there will be a real possibility of those diagnosed with BPD to experience a better quality of life. Right now it’s not really happening. BPD is horrible, and the side effects of the antipsychotics can be just as bad.

OpryLeigh's avatar

My gut reaction says that yes, I do think that certain background checks should be done on people that are planning artificial insemination and/or becoming a surrogate. I am not of the thinking that everyone should have the right to be a parent and if it were realsitic I would be in favour of certain checks being done on anyone planning to raise a child whether or not the conception was natural.

Having said that, I don’t believe that these checks should be so strict that it would be difficult to “get permission” to be a parent and this is what makes it so unrealistic. I’m talking about background checks to make sure that you don’t have a record of commiting seriously harmful crimes like rape, murder, abuse etc.

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