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Octuplets [Jan. 31st, 2009|03:12 pm]
[Current Mood |determined]

Yes, I'm opening this can of worms.

I'm appalled.  Let me say up front that I don't care about the birth mother being unmarried...I would be just as appalled if she were married (and am appalled at that 18 child household in Arkansas, too.)  I wish the babies the best, now that they're here.
I'm appalled by several things.

1) All multiple births increase the danger for both the mother and the infants, and that danger increases with every additional fetus. The risk of permanent disability (physical and mental)  increases with multiple births, too.  It is utterly irresponsible to implant multiple fetuses--especially more than two--ever, for any reason, any time.  It is clearly a violation of the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm, since harm to both mother and children is likely (and nearly certain for the children.)  As a number of fertility-clinic doctors have states, it's against standard medical practice.

2) Fertility treatments should be limited to the childless or perhaps someone with only one child. This woman already had six children.  Six is WAY more than enough.  She was not a candidate for another fertility treatment and should not have received it, not even with one embryo.

3) Her parents have stated that she has been "obsessed" with having children since adolescence.  This suggests a psychological problem which should have been dealt with before any fertility treatment.  There's a big difference between the parenting qualities of someone focused on "having children" and someone focused on "being a good parent.".

4) Neither she nor her medical advisors apparently gave a thought to the welfare of the six children she already had. Siblings of high-multiple births and/or very large families are often pressed into service as caregivers, expected to do far more work than they can do without compromising their own learning (academic and social.)  Moreover, in very large families, children do not get the attention and support that they need unless the family is well-off enough to provide adjunct caregivers, tutors, etc. to enrich their lives.  (In the family of 18 recently in the news, the children have to make appointments to get a brief one-on-one time with a parent.  That is NOT good parenting!)  Parents should be more interested in what they can do for the children they already have than in their own neurotic desire for more children.

5) There's no evidence so far that she, her family, or her medical advisors considered whether she had the financial, emotional, intellectual or energy resources to cope with a larger family, over half of whom (now) are likely to have long-term developmental problems due to being part of a large-multiple litter.  Others will now step in and do the work, and pay the bills...money and time that will not be available for children in smaller families who may need it just as much--but octuplets are a big deal, with publicity, so guess who will benefit more...the single mother with a single multi-disabled child, or the octuplets?

It was irresponsible to the point of idiocy for any fertility clinic to take this woman as a client without noticing that she was disqualified on grounds of psychology, previous number of children, and resources to raise 14 children.  It was irresponsible of the birthmother's parents to let her obsession continue without at least attempting an intervention.    If it was culturally induced (e.g., they brought her up to believe that a woman had no value except as a breeder) than they're doubly responsible, but I know that such obsessions can arise even in families that are not culturally pushing women to get pregnant.  At the least, someone (parents, acquaintances, and finally the doctors who kept giving her fertility treatments) should have insisted on a psychological evaluation of her obsessive behavior.

I have my own money in this pot.  I wanted biological children.  I was not able to have them.  I do know the pain of infertility.  I chose not to pursue the (then new, but already proven) methods of conceiving artificially because of several factors, all related to what I thought (you can disagree) were more important considerations: the existence of orphans and unwanted children, the overpopulation of the world, a few others.  In my view, people who cannot conceive naturally, without fertility treatments, need to think long and hard about why their genes are so important to everyone else that they must be passed on.  If they really want children...then they can become parents by adoption to kids who, without them, have no hope.  If they don't want an adopted child but do want "their own"--I see that as a lack of commitment that's going to backfire on their own children someday.

You are free to disagree, but keep in mind that I did serious wrestling with this issue--both intellectually and spiritually--over many, many years, as my friends had children and I could not...this isn't a set of quick, shallow decisions.  You're not going to change my mind that implanting multiple embryos like this is a disaster, not a miracle.

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[User Picture]From: mecurtin
2009-01-31 09:26 pm (UTC)
It was irresponsible to the point of idiocy

Oh, beyond that -- I think we're into "losing your license" levels of irresponsibility.
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[User Picture]From: duane_kc
2009-01-31 10:32 pm (UTC)
Personally, I think we're well into "crimes against Humanity", myself. The "doctor" involved here should, at the very least, have his/her assets seized and used to offset the costs of raising the children they caused to be brought into the world, just like any deadbeat dad.
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[User Picture]From: jonquil
2009-01-31 09:29 pm (UTC)
I was wholeheartedly with you up until this sentence: " If they don't want an adopted child but do want "their own"--I see that as a lack of commitment that's going to backfire on their own children someday. "

It has not been my experience that my friends who had fertility treatments were any less committed to their children than any other parents. You can disapprove of the decision (I don't, but I respect that you do) without generalizing to those people being Bad Parents.

But that the woman already had six kids and they implanted that many embryos? I'm with you. Gross, gross malpractice.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-02-01 12:35 am (UTC)
I should not have made a blanket statement, you're right. However, I have personally known people who were (to me) unbearably smug about how they would not consider adoption, they had to have their very own baby, because then they would know what they were getting and their genes were good genes and on and on...and I thought (having seen parents whose children existed to be props for the parents' social or political staging, or who existed to live out the parents' unfulfilled dreams) that those kids were in for it.
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[User Picture]From: mevennen
2009-01-31 09:30 pm (UTC)
FWIW, I agree. I didn't know anything about this case when it hit the news, but if the stuff that has been coming out has been accurate, it's increasingly worrying.
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[User Picture]From: fair_witness
2009-01-31 09:43 pm (UTC)
I was appalled by this story even before what I read about the mother today. I've known several reproductive endocrinologists, and I can't imagine any of them taking on this kind of patient and proceeding with this kind of treatment option.
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[User Picture]From: jonquil
2009-01-31 09:47 pm (UTC)
Oh, it just got worse. One of her pre-existing children is autistic. I'll bet *he's* going to get all the attention he needs to thrive.
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[User Picture]From: sdn
2009-01-31 10:01 pm (UTC)
thank you, thank you, thank you. (see also here.)
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[User Picture]From: zianuray
2009-01-31 10:13 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I've been trying to phrase my reaction to this adequately and failing -- you came REALLY close without the cusswords I'd've used.
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[User Picture]From: duane_kc
2009-01-31 10:29 pm (UTC)
I will only disagree with you on one point: I do feel any child raised by *you* would have inherent advantages over this brood of octuplets, at the very least in learning and intelligence.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-02-01 12:37 am (UTC)
But I could not do as good a job with fourteen as with one--or with eight infants simultaneously. No one can.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-02-01 12:51 am (UTC)
Unless I'm misunderstanding you...it's not necessarily easier, or cheaper, to have fertility treatments. At the time we adopted our son (and not by the cheapest method of adoption), fertility treatments were 3-5 times more expensive. Evaluation and testing (some of which I did undergo) was intrusive, humiliating, and (depending on insurance coverage) expensive. The non-IVF parts (regulating hormone levels, taking temperature on awakening every morning, testing for ovulation, trying to time intercourse with ovulation) are emotionally draining--month after month of this and month after month of let-down and disappointment. No matter who is less fertile, it's draining on both partners; it sucks a lot of the joy out of intimacy, at least when it doesn't work.

At some centers, the evaluation of patients seeking IVF was as long and intrusive as that of prospective adoptive parents. At others (like, obviously, wherever this woman went) it wasn't. But at the time I was in my 20s and early 30s, any form of assisted fertility (AI or IVF) typically required time interviews, questionnaires, etc, etc. (It ticked me off, by the way, that nobody asked these questions of people who were easily fertile...despite the fact that some of them made lousy parents...)

I suspect that for unmarried and/or gay women, it is politically much harder to adopt than it is to get IVF. The turkey baster was more common in my day in such cases (not kidding. Knew someone who'd conceived with informal use of a turkey baster.) It was socially less acceptable among some people I knew--my mother-in-law was opposed to our adopting and thought we should have exhausted every medical possibility first; she was annoyed when I had needed surgery that ended our attempts.

But psychologically, in our case, adoption was easier than fertility treatments. Yes, we ended up with an autistic son...but that in itself was easier than if he had been biologically related--there was no guilt, no conflict, about whose genes might have caused it.

Mileage varies, I'm sure.
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[User Picture]From: sage_theory
2009-01-31 10:57 pm (UTC)
This has got to be one of the most sensible, ethically informed, and humane responses I've read to this whole thing.

One of the children she already has is autistic. I can only imagine how much care and considering the child is lacking for, competing with all those other siblings. Plus a household that is bursting to the seems with children? Cannot possibly be healthy.

What appalls me the most, however? Is that in this country, you're required to jump through hoops to get a sex reassignment surgery. In certain states, you're required to get a sonogram before being able to have an abortion.

Yet, this woman was able - with no legal restriction whatsoever - allowed to do something which will inevitably have an impact on so many lives (not just her children, but her parents, the community, the taxpayers).

The risk of permanent disability (physical and mental) increases with multiple births, too.

So true. Not to mention that with those, for the poor infant, comes a lot of pain. I have a friend who is a NICU nurse, and she can tell you about preemies that are in fairly terrible pain from the various ailments they have.

I really hope the doctor who helped her do this faces some serious repercussions. I also hope that she herself faces some kind of consequence for this. Because she's doing a lot of damage to a lot of people, and she is obviously either extremely selfish or mentally unwell, possibly both at the same time.
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[User Picture]From: wordslinger
2009-01-31 11:07 pm (UTC)
I was horrified... and wondered if she's suffering from a type of Munchausen's syndrome. She had suffered a number of setbacks recently and the 14 kids seems to go beyond a "desire to be loved."

I don't know how she ended up with octuplets. However, the medical community is reviewing the ethics of this and I think standards will be changed.

I support the right of gay or husbandless women to have any children they can afford. But she could not possibly have afforded six children... nor the now 14 children. Heck, *we* couldn't afford 14 kids and we both had good jobs.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-02-01 12:58 am (UTC)
Every time I hear of a young woman who wants children because she wants someone to love her, I wish I could get her into therapy. No one with that attitude is ready to have kids...it's scary, because I've known girls with that attitude who ended up abusive parents. (Or they marry abusive guys--looking for love from outside when they have none inside.)

The healthy parent child relationship has way more love flowing to the child--for years--than the child returns (can return) to the parent. The parent needs to take joy in the child's healthy growth and development. Eventually, enough love flows from parent to child that the child's little motor turns over, catches hold, and grows to become a source of love for his/her own family.
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[User Picture]From: emma_in_oz
2009-01-31 11:40 pm (UTC)
Seriously, are fertility clinics that deregulated? I've just been through the process in Australia and they won't implant more than two. Plus there is a six month process of application (at least) with multiple interviews with a psych. I resented going through it (because people conceiving in other ways didn't have to leap through this hoop) but presumably it is better than some of the alternatives.

My sincere sympathies for your struggle with childlessness.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-02-01 01:01 am (UTC)
Well, I got through it. And then we had a chance to adopt, and now our son is over twenty. Autistic, gentle, kind, helpful, fun. So I've had the parent experience. I do sometimes wonder what it would have been like to have a biological child, but it doesn't do to dwell on. We were extraordinarily fortunate in our son--in having the opportunity to adopt him, in having the chance to intervene and help him through very difficult times to where he is now (and hopefully can continue to help him on to complete independence someday.)
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[User Picture]From: bagfish
2009-01-31 11:55 pm (UTC)
Yes, this. You have put into a well reasoned and rational post what I have been mentally swearing about since I heard about it. Personally I think the whole thing is disgusting not a "miracle".

As someone who is childfree out of choice because of my concerns about the environment and the future of humanity, this breeder's actions, for want of a better term, just nauseates me.
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[User Picture]From: entp2007
2009-02-01 12:33 am (UTC)
Well said. It'd never occurred to me to even think about it. I heard that she already had six kids, but again it barely raised a blip. I've been focusing on too many other outrages lately. Anyway, you've added a new one to my outrage queue. Yeah, there are too many people in the world.

Families should never be so large that a child should have to take a number to get time to spend with a parent.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-02-01 01:02 am (UTC)
Sorry to add to anyone's outrage queue. You're right; the world is full of reasons for outrage (which makes me glad that I have a friend in another venue posting daily on "Grateful for today.")
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[User Picture]From: bunny_m
2009-02-01 01:59 am (UTC)
*is rendered totally speechless*
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