Wed, Oct 05, 2005 - Page 5 News List

In vitro baby's father faces struggle

LEGAL STATUS A single man who wanted a child achieved his dream on Sunday, but he will have to fight to be recognized as the child's father under India's laws


Amit Bannerjee holds his newborn son on Sunday in Kolkata, India. The 45-year-old is the first single Indian man to become a father of an in vitro fertilized baby.


A 45-year-old accountant has become India's first single man to father an in vitro fertilized baby though he still faces hurdles to keep the boy, legal and medical professionals said yesterday.

Amit Bannerjee, whose childless marriage ended in divorce many years ago, never gave up his desire to have a child, said Dr. Sudarshan Ghosh Dastidar, director of the Kolkata-based Institute for Fertility Research.

On Sunday Bannerjee's dream came true when he held son Arjun, weighing 2.8kg after birth by a surrogate mother who was implanted with an egg from another woman fertilized by Bannerjee's sperm.

"A child is always an extension of the self. I wanted to see myself through my baby," Bannerjee, a tax consultant, told reporters.

His single status however raised many legal questions including parental rights, said Gitanath Ganguly, a lawyer and a judge in a family counseling court.

"It a unique case where three people were needed to give birth to a baby. The legal status of the baby should be determined by the courts as the woman who gave birth to the baby and the one who donated the ovum were not married to Bannerjee. So both can claim the baby, like Bannerjee," Ganguly said.

He said that ultimately, a court may have to allow Bannerjee to adopt the child.

"The child would be treated as an orphan and his guardian would have to be appointed by the courts. Bannerjee's parenthood will not be recognized by Indian laws unless the court allows him to adopt the boy," Ganguly said.

Bannerjee was unfamiliar with the concept of surrogate motherhood until a year ago but a chance conversation with a friend gave him the hope he needed. He then approached the Ghosh Dastidar Institute for Fertility Research.

"We advertised in a national daily to seek volunteers to carry the embryo," Dastidar said. "We got 20 applications and we selected three of them for tests."

After the doctors chose the surrogate mother, psychological tests were conducted to check her willingness, monetary status and educational background.

The surrogate mother was not paid but was provided with transportation allowance and medicine, Dastidar said.

"I could feel the surrogate mother had a sense she was fulfilling a social responsibility."

The egg from an unidentified donor and sperm from Bannerjee were fertilized in a test tube and implanted in the womb of the surrogate mother.

Bannerjee kept in regular touch with her throughout the pregnancy.

Bannerjee said he would tell his son about his background once he was old enough to understand: "Arjun should never feel ashamed to disclose his identity."

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