Baby Boy Born to Surrogate Four Years After Parents' Death

After a long legal battle in China with no known precedent, four grandparents inherited their deceased children's embryos.
Loukia Papadopoulos

A baby boy has been born in China four years after his parents died in a car crash, a Beijing newspaper reported Tuesday. The child was born to a surrogate on December 9 after a complex lengthy legal battle by his grandparents.

The right to continue the family line

The boy’s parents, Shen Jie and Liu Xi, a couple in the eastern Chinese city of Yixing, had been undergoing fertility treatments at the time of their death after failing to conceive for two years. They were killed when their car crashed into a tree just five days before the embryos were to be implanted.

Jie and Xi were both only children and their parents, wanting to continue their family line, fought to acquire the couple’s fertilized embryos stored in a hospital in the eastern city of Nanjing. The process proved complicated as there was no legal precedent for such a case in China.

The parents made repeated attempts to contact hospital officials but they refused to meet with them. They then conceived of an ingenious idea and decided to sue each other for the embryos.

Shen Xinnian, father of Jie, told the newspaper they chose this route because the “risk of suing the hospital was too great.” Although, the first court rejected the suit, the second appeal proved successful.

“The only carrier of the two families’ bloodlines carries the burden of their grieving memories and consolation,” argued the Wuxi People’s Intermediate Court.

A long battle begins

However, obtaining permission to inherit the embryos was only the beginning of the parents’ battles. The next issue was collecting the embryos.

Hospitals cannot transfer embryos to individuals, so a surrogacy agency had to be hired. Since surrogacy is illegal in China but not in Laos, the parents hired a Laos-based agency.

The agency succesfully aquired the embryos in December 2016 but then had to determine how to transfer them back to Laos.

"First we thought of using air freight, but none of the airlines were willing to take the thermos-sized bottle of liquid nitrogen where the four embryos were stored," surrogacy expert Liu Baojun saidThey decided to transport them by road and the embryos arrived in Laos early 2017.

Once there, a 27 year old local was chosen as the surrogate and the embryos were implanted. Before the birth, the surrogate was then taken to China on a tourist visa to finally deliver the boy in a private hospital in Guangzhou.


However, since the child was born through surrogacy, DNA testing was required to prove that at least one of the biological parents was a Chinese national. The hospital kept the baby for 15 days while all four grandparents provided blood samples and DNA.

The boy was named Tiantian which means Sweet Sweet. “His eyes look like my daughter’s. But he looks more like his father,” said the child’s maternal grandmother Hu Xingxian.

Xinnian said he worries about what to tell Tiantian regarding his parents and has decided to tell him they are abroad until he is older. “This boy is destined to be sad on his arrival into the world. Other babies have their fathers and mothers, but he doesn’t. We will definitely tell him in the future. How can we not?” he said.