Saturday, February 7

Recent octuplet story

Interesting story about a single mother of 6, now 14 using in-vitro fertilization to have more children. Asks many ethical issues regarding both the doctors involved in the procedure as well as the mother. As far as from the doctors perspective, is it ethical for the doctors involved to go through with the procedure and implant the harvested eggs? Do the fertility doctors involved have the right to deny her access to these eggs?

As far as the mother, there are several ethical issues at hand. For one, being a single mother, is it ethical for the mother to have several more children? Are these children being cared for properly and not merely an obsession for the mother? Also, the story also brings up issues of why she is having these children. Is there a financial incentive that is involved that is enticing the mother to continue to have children?

Personally, I believe that it is very selfish of the mother to continue this behavior. I feel that it is impossible for a single mother to care for and develop relationships with these children. It seems to me that no single person is capable of providing the care and affection to 14 children. As far as the doctors are concerned, it is a difficult question to answer. I feel that it is wrong for the doctors to allow this to happen, but it is a very difficult issue to deal with. I would like to hear what all of you feel about this issue.


  1. I agree that it was irresponsible of the mother to undergo the procedure to have 8 more children. However with respect to ethics I don't blame her as much as I think it was extremely irresponsible of the hospital to undergo the procedure. For example, when kids go to a candy store they want to take home as many candies as they want but it's the mother/parent who decides whether the amount is reasonable enough with respect to their financial status, health (teeth) of the child, practicality of carrying home the candies and so on... I understand that some parents dream of having many children and hence though simple-minded kid-candy analogy was to give the picture of craving/want. So in the case of mother with octupulets, assuming she was not advised/convinced by her friends/relatives (understandably so, because they may have thought they weren’t experts) it was the responsibility of the hospital (doctors & nurses) to not just inform her just facts but also advise her taking into consideration that she had a history (she had in past 6 children from artificial fertilization).

    I have never been to an artificial fertilization centre but since it deals with conception that will lead to pregnancy I am sure they must have ante-natal as well as post-natal care centers. The former as we all know is meant to deal with not just clinical signs and symptoms before delivery but also with advising regarding amongst others, family welfare and planning. Health staffs generally do that sometimes excessively as in the blog I posted regarding involuntary hospitalization where they decide whether the patient needs intervention (there are even laws, such as Mills vs. Rogers case where even the Judge have the authority to decide mental illness). Talking about another medical specialty, most plastic surgery clinics are required to assess the mental status of the patient coming in for surgery particularly those with excessive multiple surgeries (for example, Michael Jackson).

    I think when people go to a doctor or hospital they have the idea of purchasing health as they go to a store to purchase items and hence the patient just as the customer has every right to get what he/she wants. However, restrictions even apply for purchasing items, for example not everybody can buy beer (if you are under 21) and not everybody can purchase guns (at least not legally) that is why we have prescriptions to protect people from over medicating themselves or abuse drugs. I think people have more of this materialistic view to medicine particularly with fields that have recently started or those that have recently caught the attention of general public, like plastic surgery and artificial fertilization (there is also every possibility to include genetic engineering when genetic manipulation becomes an established form of treatment).

    In conclusion, I know most people have a view that the mother had every right to have these kids (I don't disagree to that) and hence after (presumably) all the explanation by the health staffs, she probably still agreed to undergo the procedure and hence she should take the brunt of public opinion. It's in the later that I differ, for instance, assume that a patient requires immediate organ transplant but the transplant available is from an HIV+ infected patient then after all consideration (emergency health status of the patient, information to the patient and family, consent, advice etc...) then the doctors & nurses decide along with the patient and relatives whether to carry on the transplantation because if the patients health status was in no way critical there is no chance that the doctors/nurses will allow the transplantation. Hence, since the mother with octupulets was not in life-or-death scenario that she needed 8 fertilizations it was the responsibility of the hospital for her health (delivering 8 kids will be a high risk pregnancy) and they should have assessed her socio-economic status (she's single mom) as well as a full psychiatric assessment (not that she is mentally ill in the traditional sense). Just as there has been high incidence of plastic surgery in the past decade, I question the motive of the hospital (doctors and nurses). They are given the power and authority in taking care of our health and hence they are supposed to take into various consideration (as I mentioned) and not just our demands. About 2-3 yrs back there was case of artificial fertilization in UK where a childless middle-aged couple (both medical doctors) underwent fertilization procedure in France (since it was illegal in UK). There was a lot of media coverage against the pregnancy due to the age of the mother but I think this story is quite different from the octupulet case though some might find similarities and argue that she puts the unborn baby in as much a risk due to her age (I disagree but I will stop here because it will lead to another discussion).

  2. Forewarning: this is merely an expression of my opinion rather than an unbiased argument.

    NBC interviewed this woman today on the Today show, and I was appalled by her selfish behavior. Aside from being a single mother, she's also unemployed and living with her parents in a 3-bedroom house. She says she "just wanted children" so she could be the best mother she could be, but she didn't plan ahead of time for how she would take care of 14 children all under the age of 7. She suggested that her friends, family, church, and public support will come through for her, although she vows not to go on welfare.

    I just have to wonder--do people like her think about or care remotely about the impact this huge family is going to have on the world population? It's the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about, but the fact is that unrestricted and irresponsible human reproduction is only going to fan the flames. I wish people would think about how they affect other people's wellbeing before making such selfish decisions.

    I will now step off of my soap box. Thank you.

  3. "Octuplets Doctor Strikes Back with Quadruplets" News Link

    As a continuation to the above story (and my comment), the California Medical Board is looking into the case of Dr.Michael Kamrava for ethical reasons which supports my view above that in such circumstances (artificial fertilization) the doctors should bear responsibility (if not more) about the number of wanted embryos and hence pregancies.

    As I mentioned in previous comment regarding complications from the pregnancy in the octuplet story (in addition to socio-economic reasons that might ensue) with the case of quadruplet the concern seems to be particularly with the medical risks involved because of her age (late 40's).

    The ethics professor Kirk O. Hanson said that - historically, they have been very hesitant to regulate procreation under natural process of fertilization and incubation, however serious questions must be asked in an era of scientifically enhanced pregnancies.

    This leads me to question the "American Society for Reproductive Medicine" or any such society who looks into such forms of treatment because artificial pregnancies (test tube baby, Louise Brown - b.1978) has been around for sometime though the techniques have become sophisticated. My opinion is that the principle behind artificial pregnancies should remain the same - to help mothers have babies who are unable to have natural pregnancies and not to fulfill peoples (parents or physicians) obsession. But it looks like such practices have been going on in the excuse of helping the mother (& mothers right etc...) and hence forgetting all the ethical basis.


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