A bit of sanity re eight babies sharing a womb

February 4, 2009 | By | 12 Replies More

I’m delighted to see that people are raising some pointed criticisms about the single woman with six children who decided to fill her womb with octuplets, endangering them in the process and hogging neonatal resources.   This commentary is by Thomas H. Murray of the Hastings Center, in an article published by CNN:

The point of infertility treatment, after all, is to create a child. But that child-to-be is not the clinic’s patient — the would-be parents are. I believe that the interests of those children deserve at least as much consideration as the wishes of the prospective parents.

The vast majority of infertility patients are no doubt fierce advocates for the well-being of the child they so earnestly seek to bring into their lives. What happens, though, when the client’s request shows little consideration or regard for the welfare of the would-be children? What happens if a woman in her early 30s with six children wants eight embryos implanted all at once?

A responsible physician could turn down such a request, citing professional guidelines that counsel implanting one, at most two, embryos in women younger than 35. How Nadya Suleman ended up with eight is a mystery . . . Carrying more than a couple of fetuses is dangerous to the pregnant woman and to the health and survival of the fetuses in her womb.

Congratulations to those many dedicated health care providers for providing excellent care for those eight children.  Shame on the mother for taking on such a massive risk with the health of her children and for — yes — procreating arrogantly.   It’s the same attitude that is exhibited by those guys who work their way around town impregnating woman after woman, so many that they can’t possibly give them any meaningful parenting.   Reproduction should never be treated as a competition.   Reproduction should never be thoughtless.


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Category: Good and Evil, Reproductive Rights

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (12)

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  1. Kenny Celican says:

    I hadn't watched closely on this; it looked more accidental than deliberate, in the sense that she wanted one and got eight. Getting up to seven still seemed a bit off, but…

    Eight, deliberately? After already having six? Are we sure this woman isn't a child hoarder?

  2. Alison says:

    Nope, she deliberately had all those embryos implanted. They were left from her previous IVF treatments. I would imagine that the real ethical issue here is how frozen embryos are legally classified as property, which would have allowed her to insist that they be implanted, regardless of how bad an idea that might have seemed to everyone else involved.

  3. Hank says:

    "Reproduction should never be treated as a competition. Reproduction should never be thoughtless."


    It should also never be done to excess simply because it's possible. I find some peoples' focus on reproducing as much as their body will allow to be completely irresponsible. "Because you can" or "because I want to" is no single reason to do anything, and "because I have a volleyball team in cold storage" should be no reason to spawn eight more kids your existing six will spend a fair amount of their own lives to come looking after. Of course people should be free to have multiple children, but everyone has to weigh their own desires against what impact they may have on everyone else and adding new humans to the world should be no exception.

    An implanted litter of eight is extreme, even you can afford to feed & support them without assistance (does anyone know if this woman is self-sufficient or will be receiving government assistance for this brood?), but from a woman who already has six children? She's treating IVF – a vital medical tool for people who for whatever reason can't conceive naturally – as some sort of after-market tuning shop for her uterus. She's making a mockery of a technology designed to assist people in need and turning it into an extreme sport and in effect restricting access of other mothers to the resources she'll now be consuming.

    I hope in the future this kind of entitled, attention-seeking breeding is going to be counselled against by medical professionals and go unrewarded by media attention. I know I probably sound like a cranky old curmudgeon but in recent years I've been more conscious of trying to reduce my impact on this fragile planet in whatever ways I could (and encouraging the same of others) and I find this woman's actions less than responsible.

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    Here's Nadya Suleman explaining why she "needed" 14 children.

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  5. Hank says:

    Schyeah, I'm convinced.

  6. Personally I see this as ridiculous, but I have to say that the reaction of certain elements of the public bother me more. It is similar, almost identical, to the kind of reaction one gets when one decides to have no children. True, those of us who choose that don't get death threats or the like, but then we don't make the national news, either, which sort of makes a target of her. Much as I think this was an absurd thing for this woman to do—and I frankly find fertility medicine itself dubious for many reasons—the bottom line is that if freedom of choice means anything it means that what we do in this regard, whatever it is, IS NOBODY'S DAMN BUSINESS BUT OUR OWN.

  7. Alison says:

    So, so, so much wrong with this. She had the babies because she was lonely growing up and felt she had a dysfunctional family – but is living with her parents and expecting them to help raise the babies. She got money from a settlement after a riot left her with back injuries and supposedly unable to work – but has managed to carry six other children around, and now will be picking up 8 more for years to come (and will probably have to do a lot more of it than before, depending on what problems the babies end up having.) She emphasizes that she loves and holds her children more than many people do – but has only 45 minutes a day for each of the newborns, then goes to school, and then what do the other 6 do? Each one gets a day of the week? She insists that she doesn't get any public assistance, but she expects help not only from the father, who probably wouldn't have agreed to this if he had known the outcome, but from her family, friends, and church, none of whom had any part in making the decision to create all these children. She's going to try to get all 8 into the daycare at her school, which probably already has a waiting list. Five or six other families will have to find different arrangements because of her, if the daycare is even equipped to handle her special needs children. She's "trying to figure out" how she's going to care for all these children, rather than having figured it out before having them – as if this were some sort of surprise. She can talk all she wants to try to convince the world that she's a rational, responsible person, but the fact is that she's anything but.

  8. Vicki Baker says:

    Alison points out the numerous "disconnects" in this woman's story. One other reality check – the maximum staff ratio for a licensed infant care facility in the state of California is 4 babies to one caregiver. But seriously – how many women are going to say "14 kids under 8 – sound like fun!"

  9. Hank says:

    I admit Mark T has something of a point regarding freedom of choice. But to reiterate one of my own points, all freedoms come with responsibility – the responsibility to ensure that exercising your freedom doesn't impinge on anyone else's. I believe libertarianism has no place when it comes to how many children someone wants as there are social & health reasons to consider. It's not like owning 14 dogs or 14 cars. You wouldn't expect your family to maintain your 14 cars or feed your 14 dogs for you – that's why you don't get 14 of anything if you can't afford the damn things.

    While woman may not be going straight onto governmental welfare she's nonetheless expecting her family, friends and community to step up to the plate and provide her & her 14 kids with welfare of a different sort. She may not be expecting to live off taxpayers' money, but she'll be living off the efforts of other people nonetheless. Not to say that the people in her life that are going to help her won't do so gladly – no decent person would see a baby deprived or neglected. However, banking on that kind of support from the very beginning was extremely inconsiderate. As if her friends and family and church have nothing better to do than raise her children for her! The revelation that she decided to have them as a way of coping with a difficult, lonely childhood also sets off a couple of alarms. No child should be brought into the world with a mission to save its parents. It's an unreasonable burden to put on a baby – it's still unreasonable if you spread it between 14 babies.

    To return to another point: even if she was self-financed and could employ an army of nannies, I'd still consider what she did selfish and irresponsible, not to mention dangerous. The human womb simply isn't adapted to massive multiple births like this (did that report say the smallest baby is one and half pounds?). It remains to be seen if all 8 of these are in a decent state of physical & mental health.

    I think this whole situation raises some ethical questions about her doctor too.

  10. Erich Vieth says:

    Uh-oh. The Octuplet mom is full of big lies. She's a female version of Joe-the-Plumber. She was a welfare mom well before she had the eight children. What else don't we know (yet)?

  11. Erich Vieth says:

    Suleman's father recently appeared on Oprah and questioned the sanity of his daughter, calling her actions "absolutely irresponsible" and pleading for the public to help Suleman and not "punish the babies."


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