Random header image... Refresh for more!

Theresa Erickson Sentenced

Theresa Erickson received her sentence today for her part in last summer’s baby selling scandal.  She is going to serve five months in prison.

San Diego attorney Theresa Erickson, 44, was sentenced to 14 months — five to be served in prison and nine to be served in home confinement.

Co-defendant Carla Chambers, a Las Vegas nurse who ran into legal trouble in New Zealand a dozen years ago for another surrogacy scheme, got 12 months — five to be served in prison and seven to be served in home confinement.

When I first read about the situation last summer, I had an overwhelming feeling of nausea that hung around for about two days.  And while the nausea dissipated, as I said after the Hilary Neiman sentencing, the trust I lost when I heard about this still isn’t back.  It feels like it changed online interactions in the ALI community, drawing a firm line between patient and professional.  Once upon a time, if I had a medical question, I would have felt safe asking one of the dozens of blogging doctors.  I did ask my questions about donor gametes or my cycle or adoption or third-party reproduction to these people online.  In fact, I asked Theresa Erickson herself when I had a question about surrogacy.  I thought that being online showed a sort of forward-thinking, a casualness that I appreciated in a person.

Now I wonder about motivations, about the person behind the information.  It is more common to be online now, so that perhaps has changed the way I view doctors or other professionals starting blogs.  But it has been a long time since I’ve asked a question.

The reactions to the original news last summer were emotional.  How do you feel, this many months down the road, having processed the information?  How do you feel reading about the actual sentencing vs. the guilty plea?

Updated: It Is What It Is (or Is It?) put into words what has been bothering me about specifically Theresa Erickson’s involvement in this.  As she states perfectly: “Ms. Erickson’s role overstepped just being an attorney and ventured into the realm of being an advocate and trusted adviser. She made those of us in the IF community feel that she was fighting for us in a different way than a skilled clinician, or RE, no matter how much he hoped for a successful outcome, could. And, beyond that and maybe as importantly, she is a woman. We simply should not exploit then profit from or turn on our own.”  Please go over and read her whole post.  She brought perfect clarity to this situation.

At first I thought my discomfort was simply because I had interacted with her, but it goes beyond that.  Erickson positioned herself in this advocacy role, and then she profited off of us.  She was one of our own based on the way she communicated vs. an RE who holds us as arm’s length.  Therefore, it hurt even more that it was someone we had confided our infertility thoughts.  Who used those thoughts to take advantage of infertile men and women.


1 It Is What It Is { 02.24.12 at 2:38 pm }

I’m not sure the sentence is harsh enough but do think that women serving hard time in lock up is deserved.

I try not to let a few bad apples spoil the whole lot (as with the reckless Octomom’s, RE, that did not color my perception of ALL REs).

The judiciary process has played itself out. It is a cautionary reminder that the only one who has your best interest at heart is you, so pick your service providers in all things well. And, respected and respectable people do bad things sometimes.

2 JW Moxie { 02.24.12 at 2:39 pm }

One thing I know for sure about the whole mess is that I feel she got off WAY too easy.

3 Keiko { 02.24.12 at 2:40 pm }

I’m wrestling so much with this right now. I’m watching colleagues and professionals react to the news as its unfolded and it’s like watching a gauntlet of open mouths and gasps.

14 months? Only 5 in prison?

…That’s it?

I just keep coming back to these families who have such profoundly – awful – it is awful – origin stories for their children. That there’s such valuable medical and genetic information that’s just gone and to know that Erickson spearheaded this whole thing and only got five fucking months in prison is beyond disgraceful. It’s an injustice to the families created by her greed and immorality.

The whole thing is just so incredibly and profoundly sad. That she’s barely expressed remorse and to be honest – I still don’t think Erickson thinks she’s done anything wrong – it’s a sad and confusing day in the wake of her sentence.

4 Emma { 02.24.12 at 2:50 pm }

I had to get the background info on this one… All I can say is Wow. She got off way too easy.

5 a { 02.24.12 at 3:20 pm }

I thought they had to pay some restitution too. I don’t feel much worse about this than I do about the other “white collar” criminals who get similar sentences for ruining people’s lives. Seems like the guy getting 8 years for burglary is doing less damage to someone’s psyche, though.

It’s a pretty sad state of affairs all around. I don’t really think there’s any punishment that can make people feel better about trust betrayed in this manner.

6 m. { 02.24.12 at 4:35 pm }

keiko took the words right out of my mouth. What she said.

7 Becky { 02.24.12 at 6:21 pm }

Okay, so here’s my perspective. I see parents abuse and neglect their kids every day. The parent whose partner shakes her baby, and she knows, but does nothing. The parent who has a car accident and his baby gets thrown from the car, and he seeks no medical treatment. The parent who knows her grandfather is sexually abusing her kid, but continues to allow her child to visit with said grandfather. The parent who gives his kid a black eye. These parents likely don’t even lose custody of their children, much less get any kind of jail time.

So, do I think what she did was wrong? Well, hell yes. Can I get myself worked up about it? No.

I’m absolutely not saying it isn’t a big deal, or something someone should be upset about. It just isn’t something I can get all upset about.

8 Lollipopgoldstein { 02.24.12 at 6:37 pm }

Becky, absolutely true. I think the only thing for me is that she inflicted emotional damage vs. those examples which are physical damage. In the same way that children who are the product of rape need to come to terms with their creation story, those children she created and sold will need to come to terms with their beginning.

9 Chickenpig { 02.25.12 at 8:44 am }

Agreed. But I still think that she was motivated by a desire to do something for people that she wanted to help. A twisted desire to help, that became a way to make money…but I still believe that she felt helpless with the system. I guess I just want to believe we are good at heart.

10 Diane { 02.25.12 at 1:48 pm }

I worked for her surrogacy company and I never saw her feel helpless. I can say that Theresa Erickson was not motivated only “by a desire to do good”. She knew the limits of the laws; she’s an expert on surrogacy so she KNEW.

I worked with the surrogates. When I told her that the surrogates thought that they were being represented by the agency, that their best interests were being looked after, that they felt protected and cared for by the agency, she told me “this agency does not represent the surrogates – they are not paying us. They can always hire their own attorney.” I was not allowed to spell this out to the surrogates. The agency had an in-house attorney representing the surrogates but it only amounted to looking over the contracts with the surrogates to make sure they “knew” what was in the contracts – but if the surrogates didn’t question it the attorney was not obligated to tell them that something they asked for had been taken back out or changed by the Intended Parents. The surrogates assumed that if they requested something and it was not objected to, that they got what they asked for. Theresa would say, “That’s the way it works. If they were smart they would have their own attorney.” But if you know that someone is misunderstanding something and you use that to your advantage, you are (in my eyes) lying.

She didn’t even follow the guidelines set out by the ASRM. She’s personally donated her eggs 19 times (which resulted in births each time) and we all know the guidelines limit donations to only 6. Then again, these are only guidelines, not actual laws. Oh that’s right, she broke these too.

11 KH99 { 02.27.12 at 9:23 am }

The initial anger I felt has dissipated, but I’m still sickened by it, and I agree that she got off far too easily. Like Keiko, I can’t imagine how these children are going to feel when they discover their tainted origin stories. I also posted about it yesterday.

12 Craig R. Sweet, M.D. { 02.28.12 at 10:30 pm }

I too have had mixed emotions watching this abuse of power play out. I also waited for the clamor of the media and politicians to rattle their sabers wanting further restrictions and statutes in reproductive medicine.

Theresa was in a position of authority presenting herself as a beacon of trust and advocacy leaving many of her clients and those that worked with her feeling betrayed.

I read one of her books. I was a guest on her radio show. I gave away some of her books to my patients. While not an attorney, her actions and the actions of her accomplices cast a dark shadow on all of us that work in the trenches caring for infertility patients. When I am lecturing at the next infertility meeting, I will wonder if those in the audience will contemplate my honesty, the possibility of my corruption and if I too could fall from grace. Her actions reflect on all of us and, for this, I am so very disappointed.

I ask that we not be judged by the actions of those like Theresa. Please do not hold us all at arms length. For every Theresa there is out there, there are a hundred of us that are will never take advantage of our patients, who believe passionately about our work and feel a very strong need to be honest to the core with our peers and our patients.

Theresa provides us with an opportunity to be more careful, ask more questions, evaluate motivations but not to never trust. Just dole your trust out carefully and slowly and I am certain the vast majority of you will never be harmed by those that have dedicated their professional lives to caring for the infertile patient.

Craig R. Sweet, M.D.
Reproductive Endocrinologist

13 It Is What It Is { 02.29.12 at 5:39 pm }

Theresa Erickson, in her own words, in an interview to a local ABC affiliate in San Diego:

14 Bea { 03.03.12 at 7:46 am }

I just read IIWII’s link, above, and the first thing I wondered was whether she was really being honest or whether she was once again saying what she knew people wanted to hear.


15 Julie { 03.07.12 at 8:27 pm }

Lying to those prospective parents and taking hundreds of thousands of dollars should have got her 10 years in jail. WE NEED REGULATION in the surrogacy, egg donation, and adoption industries and this regulation should come in the form of NO PRIVATE AGENCIES. All agencies should be GOVERNMENT AGENCIES. That is the only way to keep the scammers out and give some accountability.

16 Jon Hateley { 09.26.12 at 2:03 am }


(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
The contents of this website are protected by applicable copyright laws. All rights are reserved by the author