Gemma Davison and Liza Gatrell are 2 of Stowe’s surrogacy specialists. We chatted with them about their work in this area.
Q: How did you become interested in this area of family law?
Gemma: I did a masters in medical ethics and as part of that I studied various issues relating to surrogacy and the bridge between family law and health law. I enjoyed learning about the ethical issues around surrogacy and this sparked my interest in practising in this area.
Liza: I suffered from secondary infertility after having had my first child, and as a result spent time looking into the area of alternative reproduction. Ultimately, I didn’t need to go down this route, but I became interested in the subject and so when the firm I was then working for decided to expand this area of work, I was keen to get involved and it felt like something positive to be a part of.
Q: What inspires you about surrogacy work?
Gemma: When it all goes well, these kinds of cases are really heart-warming. They can also be intellectually challenging so I enjoy the combination.
Liza: Very often the clients have been preparing for months or even years for this. They have no other route to parenthood and they are totally committed to it. Helping them legally become a child’s parent is a joy.
Q: What is the most difficult thing about the work?
Liza: It can be emotionally difficult when things go wrong, for example, I advised a couple who’d entered into an agreement with a very young surrogate mother, and none of the people involved seemed really to have thought things through properly. They only came to me after the baby had been born, but they hadn’t discussed really important issues and ultimately the surrogate mother would not consent to the parental order. We did manage to resolve things, but it was a difficult situation for everyone involved. We always advise people to seek advice as early as possible so that they can be fully informed and aware of the potential pitfalls.
Gemma: The first case I was involved in was a care case where the baby had been born with disabilities and the intended parents no longer wanted the baby. Eventually, the baby remained with the surrogate mother, but it was a very sad situation.
What sorts of issues do you deal with?
Gemma: We provide preconception advice, for example on the criteria for a parental order, and then represent clients during that process after the baby is born; we advise on donor conception; platonic co-parenting and clients who are going through the process of surrogacy as single parents by choice.
Liza: We can provide clients with a clear understanding of their options and the legal implications of each option, particularly in respect of legal parentage. We are also there when things go wrong, such as the posthumous use of embryos or disputes about a platonic co-parenting arrangement.