Friday, February 13, 2009

The Science of Octuplets

(first, as an aside, I spelled "octuplet" as "octoplet" the first time I wrote the title, and all I can think of is cute octopus babies...)

This whole situation has raised me nearly speechless. I have been raised to understand that life and children are a blessing, and deserve as much love as you can possibly throw at them. I am that quintessential definition of pro-life: I want every child to grow up loved, disciplined, tickled, taught, well-fed, pushed to their limits....every child deserves that opportunity.

Yet, when children are brought into the world and are unable (for one reason or another) to receive this sort of comprehensive love, it makes me sad. I'm talking physically cry sad. When I read stories about 10 year old child soldiers in Africa, I cry. When I hear stories about children sexually abused by their parents, I can't sleep at night. When I see pictures of things like Columbine, it hurts. I don't mean to lay blame on parents, or on society, or on the children themselves. Environment is a complicated thing, and we don't truly understand how genetics influence who a person will become (and nature vs. nurture is a whole different post).

Regardless, this whole issue is just bringing to light the very sad emotional state of a very vulnerable woman who is veritably obsessed with having children, something that will almost certainly result in a diminished quality of life for her children.

The children's grandmother is concerned for her daughter's well-being (see here), even while living with her daughter and attempting to support her daughter's choices.

The fertility clinic is also being implicated in malpractice and ethics lawsuits, (also here) which in my opinion is a completely valid accusation. (also, I love the long French nails...really? Women without a job have money for manicures? When they are pregnant with eight babies?) She says of one of her children "He's doing really well-he's not on oxygen." Right. Because not being on oxygen is all your children have to worry about. "I wish I could stay all day long with you!" Um...maybe you should have thought about spending all day long with the six children you already have!

And that doesn't even touch on the ethics of the IVF business at all...fertility clinics are mostly unregulated, and there seem to be (from the looking I did online) fewer regulations for fertility clinics than for animal subjects use in biological research and clinical trials (to test drugs and so forth). Where is the IRB on this matter (or some other organization)? Why has this not been made an important subject to think about?

The mother of the children is hopeful that people will change their opinions about her choices, and she's currently using a publicist to handle all media exchanges. Fantastic.

And then the scientist in me kicks in:

-women are not meant to have litters. We do not have uterine horns ("extended uteri") like other mammals such as pigs, mice, and rats. We also only have two nipples. Do the math.

-You have subjected EIGHT children to a premature birth knowingly---there are a myriad of consequences to this choice, most superficially hospital time, cost to the government, health of your children.

-If you feel as if you "missed out on that sort of personal connection" in your childhood, how in the world do you think you are going to give your 14 children all the attention and care they deserve? You have no job. You have no husband. She calls her own childhood "dysfunctional." What do you think your children will feel when they look back at the circumstances surrounding their conception and birth? You will take care of them "as best as you can." I say that is not good enough...and there are people that are responsible for this failure in the choices offered by modern medicine. She longed for friends growing up...maybe a better way to work through that issue is therapy instead of having 14 kids in less than 8 years.

Even Kate (from TLC's Jon and Kate Plus Eight) thinks that this mother "has a very long road in front of her." That is probably the world's biggest understatement.

Unless this woman makes some serious changes, it seems to me like she could be faulted for negligence in her children's lives, resulting in removal of her children from her home and being placed in foster care...which is a far cry from the loving home she wants to give them. And that just makes me sad.

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