I presume everyone here has heard about the birth of a litter of eight to a 33-year old woman in California who already has six children ranging in age from 7 to 2-year old twins. The babies – 6 boys and 2 girls – were delivered 9 weeks prematurely and weigh anywhere from 1 pound 8 ounces to 3 pounds 4 ounces, all but one are breathing on their own. All are receiving fluids, proteins and vitamins intravenously, and all are expected to survive.
The mother, who lives with her mother, had been hospitalized seven weeks ago and ordered to bed rest, the babies will spend at least seven more weeks in the hospital. A team of 46 physicians, nurses and other staff were on hand for the delivery by cesarian at Kaiser Permanente Hospital Bellflower, of what they thought were seven babies, referred to by alphabet. Baby H was a surprise. All the babies have their own neonatologist and two full-time nurses.
A man who lives at the home is soon leaving for contract work in Iraq to help support the family, but it is unclear (by news reports) whether than man is the husband or the grandfather. The woman had fertility treatments to achieve this feat. It is not known how all this is to be paid for.
Meanwhile, out in the real world, the Senate yesterday passed the State Children's Health Insurance Program [SCHIP] to provide health insurance to 11 million low-income children, and for the first time since its inception will also cover pregnant women who are legal immigrants and their children, plus an expansion of coverage to 4 million more children. The vote was 66 to 32 largely along party lines. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation as early as next week.
It is estimated that about 5 million children will remain uninsured despite this action.
For discussion purposes, here are some questions related to these events:
1. Does a woman with six children really need artificial help to have 8 more?
2. Is it ethical to implant that many embryos in a woman under the age of 35? (note – most fertility clinics will not).
3. What are the moral/ethical issues involved in the concentration of medical and social resources to a litter of 8 while millions of women (who got pregnant the good old fashioned way) and children in this country have no access to medical care at all?
4. Is it reasonable for society to insist on tighter regulation of the assisted fertility market so as to prevent this sort of thing? Does your answer have anything to do with the high likelihood that in such a situation several of the fetuses will be aborted (naturally or purposely) to ensure the survival of the rest, or that there is a high probability none will survive?