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Birth of octuplets through fertility treatments sparks controversy

MacKenna Roberts

Progress Educational Trust

04 February 2009

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[BioNews, London]

Last Monday, eight babies - six boys and two girls - were born to a woman, whose identity has not been released, in Southern California at Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Centre. The babies were delivered by a team of 46 attending professionals within a span of five minutes by Caesarean section 9.5 weeks premature, with their weight ranging from 0.68-1.47kg. The babies are said to be stable but are expected to remain in hospital from several weeks up to six months. In addition to the new arrivals, the mother already has six children, including twins, all under the age of eight.

The event has attracted international attention as well as criticism regarding the medical ethics of implanting multiple embryos. Infants from multiple-births are more likely to be born premature, resulting in a significantly higher rate of death during the first month and accounting for more than half of infant death during the first year of life. Today's reproductive experts have the ability to avoid such high-risk pregnancies, which endanger the mother and commonly cause long-term health and developmental complications for the resulting children. Under US and UK national guidelines, doctors would usually refuse to implant any more than two embryos at once for a woman under 35.

Despite the guidance, some practitioners feel the final decision should be the mother's. 'Who am I to say that six is the limit?' Dr Jeffrey Steinberg, medical director of Fertility Institutes, commented, adding 'There are people who like to have big families'.

Dr James Grifo, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the New York University School of Medicine said he refuses to be 'a policeman for reproduction': 'I don't think it's our job to tell them how many babies they're allowed to have.'

Dr Harold Henry, director of maternal-fetal medicine at Kaiser, said that the mother declined selective fetal reduction to reduce the number of fetuses in order to improve the health and survival chances for the remaining fetuses. The LA Times spoke with the maternal grandmother, Angela Suleman, who said: 'What do you suggest she should have done? She refused to have them killed. That is a very painful thing'.

Ultimately, Henry commented, it is the mother's choice after a discussion about the risks and facts involved: 'The mother weighs those options, and she chooses the option based on spiritual or personal makeup'.

© Copyright Progress Educational Trust

Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.

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Date Added: 04 February 2009   Date Updated: 04 February 2009
Customer Reviews (2)
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Patrick Quinn   08 February 2009
LA octuplets
Welcome to the wildwest of US ART! It still exists and probably more so than many of us realize. I think we all have horry stories from the front but this one just about outdoes all of them. The system like this will continue until insurance companies, politicians and regulators get the backbone to do something about it.
L. Corey   06 February 2009
You are kidding, right?
It is utterly astounding that so much leeway is given to mothers here. Quite frankly, I am not buying it. Almost any procedure of this magnitude requires psychological counseling at a minimum. One can only assume that greed is the driving force here. Doctors are arrested for overprescribing pain medications to those truly in pain- yet doctors doing these kinds of things are not? I hope this case has a chilling effect on an industry that clearly has no concern for the wellbeing of mothers or children.

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