The Jury Talks Back


An Ethical Quandry

Filed under: Uncategorized — Fritz @ 3:38 pm

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.


  1. She’s living with her parents. My concern is whether they have enough money to raise 14 kids, and whether they are able to do so and to give each kid the kind of care and attention it needs.

    It would be interesting to know how many fathers were involved in all this, and whether they will (voluntarily or involuntarily) help support their children.

    Comment by Steven Den Beste — 1/30/2009 @ 6:32 pm

  2. Steven,

    I agree…I’d hate to see this woman show up at the local welfare office asking for assistance for herself and 14 children because the father(s) won’t ante up and support their children.

    My question – where did she get the money for the IVF/fertility drugs? And, who provided the treatment? Whomever did this, put her at extreme risk (according to the LAT story, the mother is 33 yrs old), not just for the babies, but her own health. Some physician needs to have the state medical board review his/her license for deviating from accepted standards of care.

    Comment by fmfnavydoc — 1/30/2009 @ 7:56 pm

  3. The ethical questions for this are legion, and they are medical in nature, not, strictly speaking, moral ones.

    1) What doctor, when taking a medical history, finds that a woman has six children already becomes party to creating another?

    2) Flying in the face of established medical ethics and practice, what doctor implants that many embryos at once?

    3) It has since come out that all of this woman’s children have come from artificial insemination. Why did the doctor ignore medical ethics in being party to multiple births?

    4) It has come out that the woman is using the same male sperm donor for all of her children.

    5) She had been admitted to the hospital five weeks before she gave birth and on total bed rest since then. The children will be in the hospital for about two months, some of that time in intensive care. Who is paying for this?

    Comment by MunDane68 — 1/31/2009 @ 7:47 am

  4. IVF has always presented it’s own snare of potential problems never explicitly dealt with: selective termination, how long are the eggs kept, is there a limit, who pays, etc? That someone did this is the inevitable outcome of such an open-ended deal. The main concern I have with it is, are we already for paying for her six children, and are we going to be paying for her eight new children? Also, the eight embryos were apparently hers which she didn’t want destroyed are after having the first six babies.

    I knew it would only be a matter of time before she would cash in on it somehow which also brought a sleaziness to the matter – did she have these babies in order to make a buck? I

    I just caught up with Hot Air and sure enough a payoff is on the way,

    THE single mother of octuplets born in California last week is seeking $2m (£1.37m) from media interviews and commercial sponsorship to help pay the cost of raising the children.

    Nadya Suleman, 33, plans a career as a television childcare expert, since it emerged last week that she already had six children before giving birth on Monday. She now has 14 below the age of eight.

    Although still confined to an LA hospital bed, she intends to talk to two influential television hosts this week – media mogul Oprah Winfrey, and Diane Sawyer, who presents Good Morning America.

    Comment by Dana — 1/31/2009 @ 2:42 pm

  5. It also turns out that all her kids — all 14 — have the same father, a sperm donor she got a sample from a long time ago and had frozen.

    If the state of California finds out who he is and goes after him, I pity the poor bastard. I wonder if he knows he’s the father of 14 children?

    Comment by Steven Den Beste — 1/31/2009 @ 7:07 pm

  6. I’m inclined to hope he’s become a famous politican, who has always been in favor of “stick it to the sperm donor” laws.

    Comment by htom — 1/31/2009 @ 7:50 pm

  7. It’s certainly a lot of children and if she can raise them well, then fine. Especially since she has done more than her share to keep the Ponzi scheme known as Social Security going. We should be offering her our thanks and saving our derision for married couples who intentionally choose to remain childless.

    Comment by hoglet — 2/1/2009 @ 9:11 am

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