So by now, everyone has heard of the octuplets in California. When I heard about them that first day when there were no details beyond the bare sketch, I made several assumptions about the mother — including “little” things like… she was married… her husband was there… they had no other children, or at most one or two… that one or both of them were gainfully employed… — you know, logical assumptions when dealing with people who can afford fertility treatments. I assumed she was like Bobbie McCaughey, who had septuplets. As the days since the original story have passed, and more and more facts and details have surfaced, I was stuck somewhere between disbelief (“She’s already got six kids, and she has fertility treatments for more?” and “She’s not even married??” and “She’s living with her parents???”) and shock.
Let me insert one little correction of the media reports: they do not implant embryos; they transfer embryos. Believe me, there’s a whole bunch of women who have undergone or who are undergoing fertility treatments that are screaming at their TVs and newspapers every time they hear that the doctor “implanted” however many embryos in the woman’s uterus.
I could go a lot of different ways with this topic, and have avoided it since that first day because I just couldn’t believe what was being said about her, and thought it must be false. Then as it was verified, it just disgusted me. Now, I read that the same doctor transferred seven embryos into another woman who is currently 5 months pregnant with quadruplets, has no insurance, and is going to be staying at a county hospital on the California tax-payer’s dime for the remainder of her pregnancy, which with quads is probably going to be another two to three months.
Obviously, being pro-life, I do not agree with “selective reduction” — an abortion procedure in which they kill one or more embryos or fetuses to allow the remaining ones a better chance of life and health. It makes me think of the Holocaust, and what if the Jews crammed together in cattle cars on the way to death camps had taken to killing each other so that the living ones could have room to sit down and be comfortable. Yet, it is little short of a miracle that these octuplets survived to 30 weeks and (since I haven’t heard of anything negative, anyway), seem to be doing well. It is not their fault that they are here, and that they were conceived as they were, so I wish them the best; but I just have to shake my head in disbelief at their mother, and wonder what sort of life they will be destined for.
Currently, we have no laws governing how many embryos can be transferred during this fertility procedure. I prefer it that way. BUT I have a feeling it will be soon changing, and it will because of this doctor (perhaps him alone; maybe others will be found that also play fast and loose with the fertility industry’s guidelines… and common sense). It’s not best for the children to have four or more babies crammed inside a single uterus; and it’s very difficult to deal with them and raise them, especially in those high-need baby and toddler years. Naturally-occurring quadruplets and quintuplets are quite rare — I doubt that there are any naturally-occurring sextuplets or above, but the famous Dionne quintuplets who were born in the 1930s in Canada were obviously not the result of fertility treatment!
But stories like this highlight the sometimes opposing viewpoints of patient’s rights and doctor’s ethics. There is a line from the movie Jurassic Park that has Jeff Goldblum saying, “Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”I think that pretty much sums up this whole problem.
Just because this doctor could transfer so many embryos, it doesn’t mean he should. Just because this mom could have more fertility treatments, after already having six children under the age of seven, and living unmarried with her parents who have filed bankruptcy, doesn’t mean she should.
In my opinion, this doctor was unethical in his transfer of so many embryos — and these babies are paying the price. Even if they grow up without any lifelong disabilities from having been born so early, they really ought to have had another ten weeks or so in their mother’s uterus. While I’m sure they are receiving top-notch care where they are, no technology replaces the womb.
Part of me doesn’t even want to get started on this mother, for fear I’ll be too unkind, or that I won’t be able to stop the harangue. But just because she as the patient had the “right” to have fertility treatment, does that “right” trump the doctor’s ethics in limiting the number of embryos transferred?
Of course, this discussion on patients’ rights vs. doctors’ ethics assumes that there is some sort of conflict between the two. Ideally, there will be no conflict — because both doctor and patient would be guided by some common sense! Unfortunately, it seems that there was no conflict in this case, and that both doctor and patient were blissfully going hand-in-hand off the same cliff.
Filed under: informed consent Tagged: | abortion, art, artificial reproduction, baby, birth, california, choice, embryo, embryo transfer, embryos, ethics, nadya suleman, octuplets, pregnancy, pregnant, pro-life, quadruplets, quintuplets, rights, selective reduction, septuplets, sextuplets, triplets, twins