One of the most highly publicized stories this year concerns the mother who gave birth to octuplets after in vitro fertilization and implantation. She already had six other children which were conceived in the same way.
Legal, medical and social issues were raised by reporters and commentators. The amount of publicity regarding the birth continues to grow. As anyone following the story knows, there are more questions than there are answers.
In this blog, I have written about the many ways to start a family when there are medical issues. The birth of the octuplets raises almost of all them and provides a guide for what not to do.
Legally, there has been nothing wrong. We all have the right to have as many children as we wish. If we cannot provide for them, then governmental authorities may step in after the children are born and if there is proof that their needs are not being met. Several children sleeping in the same bed does not matter, as long as they are being fed, cared for and sheltered. There is nothing to indicate that any of these 14 children will not be cared for, as everyone has said she is a good and attentive mother. The issues of having 14 children is one of values. Some believe that no one should have 14 children; some believe that a single mother should not have 14 children. This is a social norm. For some, having many children is seen as either a duty or a blessing.
From the news reports, mother has used the same fertility group for all her children and had her embryos frozen for this use. Some articles have reported that the practice group’s success rate is below the typical rate for this procedure. As a lawyer, I cannot comment on these facts with any medical knowledge. However, the fact that at least 8 embryos were implanted at the same time is a violation of the profession standards for those medical caregivers who practice assisted conception, even though the standards are voluntary. The question as to whether the doctor should have aided the woman to have more children is again one of personal/moral values. As the treating physician pointed out, the decision is the patient’s, and absent a threat to the mother’s life, may not one for the doctor to make.
The incident is also a learning tool for anyone considering assisted conception. Be mindful that you must do more than check for accreditation/credentialing. You need to research your doctor or agency’s track record. There are many questions that need to be asked and you should have someone with knowledge in the field to advise you of the issues and questions to raise.
No matter how this incident is viewed, it is clear that assisted conception is a wonderful medical tool to aid in having children. As with all tools, care must be taken to use them in the best way possible.