A SURROGATE who gave birth to her sister's twins did so as a "completely altruistic act by a sister for a sister".
The High Court heard that the woman agreed to act as a surrogate so that her sister, who was unable to carry a child, could have what she had and experience motherhood.
However, the genetic mother could now face a raft of problems – from being unable to give permission for emergency medical treatment, to seeing her children unable to automatically inherit her estate – as she is not legally recognised as the twins' mother.
In a landmark legal case, the genetic parents of the twins are seeking to have their children's birth certificates amended to name the genetic mother rather than the woman who acted as surrogate.
The surrogate mother is supporting her sister's application which is being opposed by the Attorney General.
None of the parties can be identified for legal reasons.
Gerard Durcan, for the couple, told the High Court that Irish case law accepts the principle that there is a natural "blood-bond or blood-link" between parents and children.
He said: "This is a completely altruistic act by a sister for a sister. . . to bring about a situation where her sister could have what she had.
"The exercise which my clients carried out is an entirely lawful exercise under Irish law," he said.
Consultant obstetrician and expert in reproductive medicine, Dr Mary Wingfield, said it was "tragic" that the couple had to go to court to be declared the legal parents of the twins.
Dr Wingfield, clinical director of the Merrion Fertility Clinic which is attached to the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, was a member of the high-level Commission on Assisted Human Reproduction, which published its report in 2005 calling for regulation for surrogacy.
Asked how she felt about the fact that there has still been no action to regulate surrogacy seven years on, she said: "I'm very, very disappointed. I think we so badly need legislation."
Dr Wingfield said she was of the opinion that in cases where the genetic material was supplied by the commissioning couple to a surrogate, then "parentage should lie with the commissioning couple".
She agreed with Mr Durcan that the lack of legislation has left people using surrogacy "in a vacuum".
Mr Justice Henry Abbott asked why people go to such lengths and "jump into the dark" by using surrogacy given the lack of legislation in Ireland on the issue.
Dr Wingfield replied: "If you desperately want a child and have the wherewithal to produce the genetic material. . . it's a natural human tendency to want to pursue that if it's safe."
The case continues today.