Millionaire businessmen Barrie and Tony Drewitt-Barlow were the first gay couple named on a surrogate baby’s birth certificate and went on to have four more children, set up their surrogacy agency and star in reality show The Parent Makers.
But for one surrogate in San Diego the decision to work with their British Surrogacy Centre (BSC) has proved to be disastrous as she has claimed in The Mail that she was used, abused, called “trailer trash” and left in £60,000 in debt. Megan Hoffner stands on the brink of financial ruin and losing her home as she has become locked in a legal battle mired in claims and counter-claims. ‘This whole process has been a disaster,’ she says.
At first, Megan says, all went well. She signed a 24-page surrogacy agreement on November 21 2013 in which she agreed to bear a child (or multiple children) for Marco Aurelio Lucas and Roberto De Souza Silva. The document says Megan will be paid £22,500 for one child – with childcare, lost wages, medical bills and ‘extra baby’ clauses built in – and an extra £5,000 for twins.
She said: ‘I wanted to bring the joy of children to a family who might not otherwise experience that happiness. You get paid to be a surrogate, but this was never about making money.’
Megan explained: ‘I kept submitting bills for expenses and the payments would be late. The BSC told me there were issues in Brazil and that because surrogacy was illegal in Brazil they’d had their bank account flagged up. I emailed Barrie Drewitt-Barlow at the end of last year, begging him to help to get my bills paid. In return he sent me emails full of abuse.’
In one email Drewitt-Barlow, who lives in a sprawling Essex mansion, purportedly wrote: ‘I advised your Ips (Intended Parents) NOT to pay you anything at all because you are a crazy bitch who deserves to be locked up! Your Ips will not be paying you one more penny! I am so happy that they ran from you!’
Megan says she bears no ill-will towards the Brazilians, who moved to San Diego for the birth. They take a less charitable view of Megan, saying she was unreliable and unsuitable to be a surrogate.
But there is one thing that they all agree upon – the BSC did a poor job, a point made by their lawyer in court documents.
Megan went on to say: ‘I blame BSC for all the problems. The Brazilians didn’t realise that the costs could escalate as they did.’
Last night Reece Statham, vice-president of the BSC, said: ‘The majority of the money Megan claims is owed is medical fees incurred because she insisted on using a hospital not covered by her medical insurance. She was advised of this but refused to change.’
Barrie Drewitt-Barlow told The Mail on Sunday that Megan had been extremely difficult to deal with and that her lifestyle meant she was not suitable as a surrogate.
‘She actually is as mad as a hatter,’ he said. Which rather begs the question – why was she chosen to be a surrogate in the first place? The situation highlights the often tricky and complicated situations that can arise from surrogacy programs, especially international arrangements.