The question on everyone’s lips regarding the octuplets born to a 33-year-old California woman who already had six children is, why? Why seek technical intervention to have another child, or children, when you already have three sets of twins artificially conceived, have no husband or independent means of support, are exposing those children to fatherlessness, insecurity and possibly hardship — if not premature death, and are creating a further burden for your parents and the public purse?

The answer to that, however, seems less of a mystery than the issue of why a fertility business would accept as a client a woman in those circumstances. The woman, Nadya Suleman, is either slightly mad or mercenary (there are reports that suggest she wants to make money out of being a media celebrity) or both, but one has to rule out madness from the calculations of the people who gave an unmarried young woman in vitro treatment four times (apparently) using frozen embryos made with donated sperm. The irresponsibility of the fertility industry is mind-boggling, bordering on criminal.

Yet criticism of the technicians so far has focused on the fact that the latest treatment far exceeded the industry guidelines by implanting eight embryos. Nadya has been implicitly criticised for not accepting “selective reduction”, or abortion, of some of the babies. The media are fudging the issue that any responsible professional in the field (if that is not a contradiction in terms) would have refused from the start to take the woman as a client and referred her for psychological assessment.

“Fertility experts said it was not their role to question why a patient wants to have more children,” says a Reuters report. “’Who decides what is the magic number?’ Sahakian said. ‘for some people, two is too many.’"

And Time magazine seems to agree that “A doctor, after all, is not the same as a judge.” Time continues: “If women who already have a bunch of kids were to approach Stillman for help conceiving more, he says he'd be obligated to help. ‘As a parent of two kids, I may think they're crazy, but I'd tell them what I always tell patients: our goal here is as many children as you want, but preferably one at a time.’" Another expert tells Time that “"Restricting reproductive rights would be a minefield."

Would it be a worse minefield, though, than the one that psychologically unbalanced or willful people like Nadya Suleman can create with the help of an industry with no conscience? ~ AP/Boston.com, Feb 1; Reuters, Jan 31; Time, Feb 2

 

Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet