Californian Octuplets

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A 33-year-old Californian, single mom, Nadya Suleman, gave birth to octuplets 27th January 2009. She already had six children ranging in ages from two to seven. All fourteen children were conceived using infertility treatments. She states, “That was always a dream of mine, to have a large family, a huge family.”

Are there any ethical problems here?

  • Is there a case for a large family in global challenges of overpopulation, environmental impact and a possible reliance on a concaving social service?
  • In cases of IVF, there is a procedure of selective reduction, in other words, aborting fetuses above four to reduce risk of losing all and enhancing the chances of those remaining. This was not followed here. Also, given Ms. Suleman’s age, there should have been no more than two embryos implanted according to The American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). What happened here?
  • The role of doctors – surely the doctors would have disagreed with Ms. Suleman’s decision to risk all eight embryos?
  • IVF is a self-funded intervention – does this provide a buffer between the will of the patient and the responsibility of the doctor?

Although a story of strong emotional impact, is there a clear ethical position?


Anonymous says:

We are meant to reproduce are population!!!

Shelley says:

Ok, good – so the utilitarian approach of a good outcome over-rules the method? i.e. the good outcome of the birth of eight healthy babies against a method of violating legal procedures concerning health risks. Is it morally acceptable to ignore the means when the end is agreeable? And is populating the world the only issue here?

Jess says:

Regardless of how the children were conceived, I think the ethical dilemma we ought to focus on is whether or not this particular woman (as it all depends on the individual) is capable of raising all eight babies, and her other six children, whether it be financially or in terms of the time, or quality of time, she is able to spend with each. Surely it would be unfair on the children to bring them into the world, or choose to raise them herself if she wasn’t able to take care of them. I have heard countless times how much time, effort and money it takes to take care of even one baby, let alone eight. Good luck to her.

matt says:

i would have to agree with Jess with regard to the welfare of the children, if the mother is capable of caring for all fourteen children then there is no problem in my eyes, though the whole process of ivf treatment is open to ethical criticism as in some cases it involves the aborting of certain fetuses in order to save others.

Dan says:

Considering the first point, overpopulation and environmental pressures associated with additional births are concerning, especially in todays climate, as we are in a slow transition of change from non-renewable fuels to renewable sources, however additional users of these ‘green’ fuels still impacts the global community making reductions in global warming (etc) seemingly non existant. Not only does the environment suffer, the economic situation of the country also suffers, especially such countries as the UK who freely give benefits (CSA, working tax credit etc)to insecure financial families with many children.Regarding the second point, it is clear there has been a breach in procedure, which is unethical in regards to the work place. However,it would seem that there was an overwhleming factor( more than likely money) which swayed decisions and allowed the procedure to go ahead. Here what should be asked is whether it is ethical to have risked what is essentially a human life for a single persons lust for a large family. Also the complications which could occur for the mother should be taken into account – would her life be put at risk? I would suppose that somebody with a strong view on such other topics as abortion would be unimpressed to see life manipulated so guilt-free.The third point: the role of the doctors here is seemingly unintelligible, however, considering that on the whole they enjoy their job and gain some personal satisfaction from helping people unable of conception by natural means, conceive, and in turn create a family is justification enough in my eyes for the doctors to agree to Ms Suleman’s request. I believe this because if a mother wished to have 8 children, and could conceive them naturally, then there would be no restrictions on her to do so, so how can someone tell a paying ‘customer’ any different? In light of this though, there is still the issue that set guide lines were not followed.The fourth point considers whether payment for a service alters the relative practice, and in many cases it does seem to be the case. much like, you wouldn’t turn a paying customer away in your shop because they wanted to buy all your newspapers for example, so why would you do the same to somebody who wanted the maximum amount of children? Financial gain, in all businesses throughout the world, is their purpose. People are exploited in third world countries for financial gain, and it would seem that the IVF procedure is being exploited and its methods questioned by a woman flashing a pretty penny.In my own mind, I think that to have octuplets with the known risks is not only unethical, but immoral and Ms Suleman should have thought about the life she was creating before her own lust for a family. However, I do agree with the previous two posts which suggest that main issue is the welfare and well-being of the children after their birth, which, considering as the the conception went correctly, is the now important focus of the debate. Whether Ms Suleman can give her new family the life they all deserve.To finalise i think that this debate boils down to, ‘do the ends justify the means?’

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