Saturday, January 31, 2009

Things that make me go...what?

I'm sure by now you've all read the headlines about the woman who gave birth to octuplets. If you have been hiding under a rock (or nursing a sleepless baby round the clock, or just waking up from a coma), go here: Octuplets

Just reading the word "octuplets" makes me tired. Exhausted. And totally terrified.

Only two days ago I mentioned the post-traumatic-stress-like reaction I have when I think about the three years of sleeplessness imposed upon us by Gabriel's infancy and toddlerhood.

So the mere idea of EIGHT babies makes me want to go hide under a bed or something.

There's been a lot of debate about whether or not a woman who already had six children should have been allowed to receive infertility treatments. One particularly astute comment (which I cannot find right now) was something along the lines of "simply wanting to have more children is not enough to qualify a family to adopt or foster a child, should it be enough to qualify for fertility treatments?"

And it's an interesting question, but I don't think it's the most important issue raised by this situation.

(There is, of course, a fundamental difference between IVF and adoption, and the difference is that there is, evidently, no government regulation of IVF whereas there is a whole lot of government regulation of adoption.)

Another fertility specialist commented that it was not up to him to 'police family size'. And it is this point I most want to discuss.

It is not that I expect fertility doctors to 'police family size'. I am the oldest of six children and I love my siblings dearly. Each of them is special to me. I respect the decision to have a large family. (Or to have a small family. Or to make a family without children. I respect all of these choices.)

But what I do expect fertility doctors to do, is, you know, be DOCTORS. I'm not a doctor (well, actually, technically, I am, a doctor, in that I have that J.D. after my name, the D being for "Doctor" - a Juris Doctor, a Doctor of Laws, but this is fun cocktail conversation, nothing more) - where was I? Yes, I'm not a physician, but I seem to recall something about "first do no harm". And it seems to me that implanting eight embryos into a human being is harmful.

The human body cannot support 8 babies, it is not possible to bring them to term. The human body cannot produce enough breastmilk to provide sustenance for 8 babies. We are not cats. We are people. It is not physically possible for a single human being to provide care for 8 babies around the clock. It just isn't. The human body needs a certain amount of sleep in order to continue to function. Eventually, without sleep, the human body shuts down. I imagine one would meet that point very quickly trying to care of 8 premature infants.

(I know a woman who has triplets. They are all teenagers now, but she told me once her husband had a seizure and had to be hospitalized...from the sleep deprivation. And that was TWO people caring for THREE babies. Not eight.)

Heck, even the Duggars, king and queen of the extremely large family, never tackled eight at ONCE.

My point is, it seems to me that it is dangerous, and expensive and risky to allow an octuplet pregnancy to occur. It is not like this is a situation that occurred naturally. (One doctor interviewed for one article I read said that the odds of naturally occurring octuplets was 'practically incalculable'.) Someone had to do something (aside from knock boots), something out of the ordinary, something EXTRAORDINARY, to cause this situation to happen. And I wonder, just because we CAN do something, doesn't mean that we SHOULD. And in fact, I think it means, quite possibly, that we SHOULDN'T.

So why on earth should a doctor allow an 8 baby pregnancy to even occur? If something unethical happened in this case, I think it lies therein - we should not play god this way. We should not implant more than 2 or 3 embryos into a human body, and I cannot imagine how any competent medical provider allowed this to happen.

But, what do YOU think?? I'm curious.


Blogger Rachel said...

I so normally lurk, but this topic has really made me think in the last few days...

It is precisely this reason that I do not think this country can handle a discussion of Roe. Because probably, what happened in this case is that the mother's overies were hyperstimulated, so they released a lot of eggs, and then did IUI, perhaps with some help from dad at home. I don't *think* the fertility doctor would implant as many as 5 or 6 embryos at once (I guess there is a 4-5% chance of an embryo splitting into two), but then again, no one is talking about exactly how this happened.

The thing is, to your point, I don't know how comfortable I am with selective reduction. Or more to the point, I am not comfortable with someone FORCING selective reduction, as in the case with government regulation in controlling the number of babies in a single pregnancy. (In Italy and Germany, physicians are not allowed to transfer more than 3 embryos. I think this is a wonderful idea.) But really, in my mind, when it comes down to it, selective reduction (for the benefit of the other babies in the womb, and for the mother) is frankly no different than an elective abortion, and this country really can't handle that type of discussion. In my (totally humble) opinion.

If that made no sense, can we chalk it up to a tiny text box? :)

Sunday, February 01, 2009 11:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Nicki said...

I had to make lots of assumptions to swallow the whole story - like Rachel i assumed they did IUI but actually the grandmother SAID they did IVF which makes ya wonder. And then I heard she's single and lives with her parents and sort of all bets were off because WTF?!?! But then how judgmental of me. Maybe her parents are totally 100% on board. Maybe they are young and full of energy and already loving the six grandkids they help raise (in a very literal sense apparently) and, hell, maybe they paid for it. Maybe 3 "parents" can care for 8 newborns and 6 older kids a little easier? I thought it was amazing that the Mom is planning to only feed the babies breastmilk (hers and donated). So maybe we are all a little quick to judge.

But one thing I wholeheartedly agree with is that any doctor who implanted 8 viable embryos should have his licensed revoked. Period. That, to me, goes directly against the Hippocratic oath.

Sunday, February 01, 2009 12:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A good friend of mine has 6 boys through IVF, a single, twins & a set of triplets. If she wants another, who am I to say she can't? She is a wonderful mom & she & her husband make a good living. However, when we were talking about this, she assured me that any fertility doc in a reputable clinic will be up front with their limits. Her doc wouldn't implant more than 3, but she & her husband chose to have only 2 embryo's implanted each time (the triplets are a set of identical's & a 'spare' ;-) because they didn't want anything riskier than a twin pregnancy.

My personal feeling is the dr should lose his license & also be on the hook for the medical expenses these babies will rack up. As you said, women are not meant to have litters & any dr with an ounce of ethics wouldn't harm a patient that way. I wonder what the doc's motive was?

Sunday, February 01, 2009 4:47:00 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Yes, I agree that the doctor should have his license revoked.

I know the news story today quoted the grandmother of the babies as saying they were conceived through IVF, but she also said that that was necessary because the mother's fallopian tubes were "plugged up" (what the heck does that mean?!?)

I canNOT imagine how this woman is going to parent 14 children, including 8 infants, as a single mother...I really hope she has a partner, even if she is not married. I am getting pre-traumatic stress disorder thinking about it. Oh. my. goodness.

Sunday, February 01, 2009 5:00:00 PM  
Blogger Melissia said...

I also wonder if we have the entire story. Did she do an unmonitored IUI? You can buy Clomid on the internet, so it is out there. And remember we are only hearing from the grandmother, not actually from the fertility clinic. There are also cases, many actually, where multiples conceived through IVF and are identical, so eggs do split, so we don't actually know how many embryos were transferred, if they were, and we do not know if she was truthful with her clinic. My guess is that time will tell.
Someone will write a book and we will hear the entire story with all of the details.

Sunday, February 01, 2009 5:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Exactly, exactly what I was thinking ... and what I think every time I hear about a large number of multiples coming as a result of IVF.
Also, I thought I heard this woman is on public assistance - and I'm wondering, how does a person on public assistance afford infertility treatments? Just curious...

Sunday, February 01, 2009 5:55:00 PM  
Blogger mam said...

Julie at A Little Pregnant wrote about this too and landed where you did. I have no confidence in my own opinion in this arena, but you and she together are most certainly right.

Sunday, February 01, 2009 6:21:00 PM  
Blogger Jenny said...

OY, IVF doesn't implant anything. I did IVF, had 3 embryos transferred. I did 3 because the 3rd embryo was of terrible quality and the likelyhood it would become viable was nil.

But they aren't implanted. They are transferred into your uterus and then they implant themselves if they want know science.

The clinic I went to had a strict policy of only 3 embryos. And really like to limit it to 2. Any Dr that would do an 8 embryo transfer shouldn't be practicing reproductive endocrinology.

And the stories are soo varied, who knows what really the story is. (I whole heartily disagree with 8 babies being carried, but the hospital even only thought there were 7! how is that possible!).

I guess I don't know. C and I paid 10's of thousands of dollars of the treatments we did, how did she gain access?

It is all nuts. We can barely manage twins. 8 I would need heavy medication and an army of 6 nannies.

Sunday, February 01, 2009 7:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Very interesting issues. Like everyone else, I think any doctor who implants or transfers or whatever, THAT many embryos should not be allowed to practice medicine. However, I also believe that the government and the medical establishment have no business regulating the number of children a woman has/carries should a multiple pregnancy of that magnitude, or any magnitude, somehow occur. I hadn't read enough of the story, so I had no idea she was/is a single mom -- that is just a little crazy to me. *If* she is on public assitance, then I think any medical intervention to help her conceive is borderline criminal. I'm all for women having babies if they want to, but not if they are expecting the rest of us to finance them for the next 18 years.

Sunday, February 01, 2009 9:36:00 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

This whole story is all so crazy to me. I really can't get my head around it. I think that the doctor should have his license taken away if he transferred 8 embryos. But the grandmother said that they transferred less and that they multiplied. Who knows?

I REALLY worry about all of her kids. There is no way that a mom and a set of grandparents could care for the babies, let alone the other children. I hope they will all be cared for and loved.

Monday, February 02, 2009 12:48:00 AM  
Blogger Carma said...

As a woman who has gone through IVF, I can say that our doctor would NEVER have let this happen. First of all, we had to prove that we had indeed been trying for years to conceive. We had to have a referral to the infertility clinic in order to pursue that route. We had to go through test after test to ensure that we were candidates for IVF. Our doctor was in control of what we would be doing and it was scripted.

The choices we had to make were overwhelming and we were working together. This woman, this "woman who just loves kids," makes me angry. The doctors who helped her to conceive make me angry. What gives her, the already mom of six, the right to get pregnant with the help of drugs and IVF? I feel so sorry for all 14 children. What doctor had the right to do this to those babies and the other kids? Who foot the bill for this procedure? The taxpayers of California? Hello, they just cut the tax refunds to their population!!

We would love to have another baby and yet because of the economy, we are unable to go through the procedure again, at least for right now. We cherish every single moment with the blessing we were given with our beautiful daughter, but she would just love to be a big sister. I hurt that I can't give her that biologically. It isn't fair! I know that sounds childish, but that is how I feel.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009 7:49:00 PM  
Blogger KelleyO said...

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Wednesday, February 04, 2009 2:53:00 PM  
Blogger Emily said...

i am so with you on this one.
when i had my ivf cycle my doc would only transfer two embryos since i was so young (28 at the time). and that was fine by me. we even wondered if we should just transfer one. but when you pay so much money you sorta want to have the best odds possible. my cycle didnt work, but if i were to ever do it again i will still transfer no more than two.
we were not built to carry 8 babies. it is just crazy.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009 3:42:00 PM  
Blogger Graced said...

This whole thing happened at a really interesting time for me, because I'm working on a law review article that my professor is submitting, dealing with infertility treatments. The fact that the blogs have been alight with this has made the topic even more interesting.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009 6:04:00 PM  
Anonymous char said...

I skimmed the comments and I still am wondering one thing. Can you get infertility treatments if you are, in fact, fertile? Did she conceive the other 6 with IVF, too?

Thursday, February 05, 2009 3:47:00 PM  
Blogger Jules and Danny said...

If the mother in question already had six children and really wanted another, and could afford in vitro... who are we to say she shouldn't have a seventh child. There are big families all over the place.

However, there should be some counseling prior to the cycles about the ability to care for and nurture another child.

AND, the number of embryos transferred should be regulated by law! I do not, personally, believe in selective reduction... BUT I do believe that transferring more than 3 embryos is wrong... ethically, medically, morally, you name it. Our bodies were not designed to carry so many babies, which is why it almost never (I can't say never for certain!) ever happens naturally!


Wednesday, February 11, 2009 10:59:00 AM  

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