Premila Vaghela died in the eighth month of her pregnancy with an American couple’s baby. She had been admitted to Pulse Hospital in Ahmedabad, in the state of Gujarat, four days earlier because of pains in her stomach, and then experienced sudden convulsions and collapsed on the floor. Doctors conducted an emergency Caesarean and saved the baby boy. Premila was then taken to Sterling Hospital for intensive care, but was suffering major cardiac arrest and unfortunately did not survive.
The Times of India noted that despite her death, “she completed her job.” The premature baby is “doing all right.”
Premila had two boys of her own. Her husband, Karsan, is a daily-wage laborer. They lived in a small house in a congested lane on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, in the neighborhood of Amraiwadi.
There was almost no coverage of Premila’s death in the United States. A couple of Indian newspapers covered the incident, claiming that she died of “unexplained complications.” The Post-Mortem report has yet to be published.
Surrogacy in India is big business. There are as many as 1,000 clinics in the country; the industry is worth $2.4 billion and growing rapidly. Commercial surrogacy is illegal in some U.S. states, as well as the United Kingdom and most European countries; where it is available it is often prohibitively expensive (up to more than $100,000). These conditions have led to a flood of foreign couples seeking the Indian clinics, which offer much lower costs and none of those “onerous regulations.”
The contract Premila signed is available online. It extensively protects the interests of the genetic parents, limiting their costs, investment, and liability, while requiring the surrogate to agree to extremely intrusive procedures and limitations on her behavior. One section notes that the surrogate and her husband agree that “if she is seriously injured or suffers a life-threatening instance during her third trimester of pregnancy,” she, “will be sustained with life support equipment to protect the fetus’ viability and insure a healthy birth on the Genetic Parents’ behalf.”
The contract specified that if Premila died, her family would be compensated with around $4,500. After her death, the genetic parents were pressured to give more. The family will now get about $18,000.
The medical tourism industry commodifies Indian women’s bodies, through the renting of their wombs, to the monetary value assigned to their life. And when tragedies such as this occur, it is clearly not in the industry’s interest to publicize them.
Was Premila really aware of the risks?
Previously on Biopolitical Times:
Posted in Assisted Reproduction, Jessica Cussins's Blog Posts, Other Countries, Reproductive Justice, Health & Rights, Surrogacy
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