Octuplets & the Ethics of Fertility

by Emily Norton
Special to iVoryTowerz

When The New York Times first reported about the California octuplets it seemed like a story about a miracle. However, less than a week later and blogs across the country are afire with questions of the ethics of fertility. Why the questions?

Well, apparently this was not the first time the mother in this case had given birth: she may have six other children. Added to that: the mother is not married and the octuplets were conceived with the sperm of an unidentified donor.

Certainly, this amazing achievement should be awe-inspiring; technology has come a long way to make multiple births possible. Forty-six hospital attendants were needed to successfully birth the children, and not one child has been lost yet. However, from an emotional, monetary, medical, and psychological standpoint, I'm not so sure this should be legal. As many others have wondered, why did the doctors agree to inseminate her under the circumstances? Is it wrong for her to have so many children? Should there be laws made to restrict reproduction? What about population growth?

I can't help but take the side of the critics. I have loved the big families I've encountered, but at this time of economic crisis, it's hard for even the smaller families to make ends meet. The mother in question might be a fantastic mom, but the reality is that a single mother statistically can't provide as many opportunities for her children.

Journalist Lisa Belkin raises another difficult argument: breastfeeding. The anonymous mother has expressed the wish to breastfeed, but to do so would be extremely taxing on her body, time consuming (let's not forget that she has six other young kids), and then there's always the chance that with octuplets, one or more children could be overlooked. Ensuring that each baby receives his or her proper daily nourishment will be no small feat.

Conclusively, doctors who are involved in artificial insemination should research their clients past medical history. Embryo implantation should be considered contextually, and perhaps constraints and rules should be updated. Was not the original intent of in vitro fertilization to overcome infertility?

(The graphic was created with the Despair, Inc. parody generator. The doll photo is adapted from smudie of Paris, France via Flickr, using a Creative Commons license; the license allows for adaptation of the original work.)

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