At the breakfast table this morning I asked myself, why, oh why, would a woman with 6 children, all of them under the age of 10, a set of twins being the youngest, undergo fertility treatments? Is that ethical?
I think that a distinction needs to be made between a woman with six young children who becomes pregnant naturally (oops!), and one who takes extensive, expensive, and, strictly speaking, medically unnecessary steps. With the medications, doctors visits, ultra-sounds, various procedures, etc…, fertility treatments, rarely covered by medical insurance, start at around $10,000 and can go up, way up, from there. This woman must have been fully aware of what she was doing and undertook great cost and great effort to do it.
I don’t know this woman’s particular medical history, but I do know that in IVF even if you have 8 (or more) viable embreyos that make it to the 5 day stage, you don’t need to implant them all. The storage technology has come a long way and the loss of, for want of a better word, potency, is minimal.
The woman refused selective abortions to reduce the number of fetuses. This seems to me to be the only obviously morally unobjectionable decision made by anyone involved in this case.
A lot of discussion that I’ve seen on various blogs skips right to what many believe to be the heart of the matter. Is there alimit of the number of children one ought to bear or a limit to what you may do to bear them? One blogger asks,
When so many children are dying of starvation and disease around the world, and when so many childless couples are trying hard to have one child, isn’t it selfish to produce eight more?
The first question, whether in light of world poverty this sort of thing ought to be allowed, seems sort of silly. I’m finding hard to imagine what effect 8 more children in the U.S. will have on the poor and benighted of the world. The second question is even worse. I don’t think that there is such desperate need for fertility drugs such that a ration should be put in place to make sure that “truly deserving” couples receive them. There is as much and as good left over for others to use.
It’s my position that children ought to be born or raised for their own sake; they are not merely ends to satisfy the desires of the parents. In addition, the state has an interest in the cultivation of the young. This may mean staying out of the way of good parents, and not allowing bad or poor parents to shirk their responsibilities, but it may also mean not allowing something this extreme to take place.
In the end, I object to her behavior, though it may be out of pure prejudice, which according to Kirk isn’t always a bad thing, and I’m not quite willing to prescribe some sort of legal sanction, but I’m still trying to formulate the exact ethical principle at work.