Congratulations California! It’s a boy, and a boy, and a boy, and a boy, and a boy, and a boy, and a girl, and another girl. The California taxpayer deserves congratulations for this “miraculous” birth since they will be shouldering the financial burden for the long-term health and well-being of Nadya Suleman’s octuplets; from their hospital costs, to their food, and their education. These costs are in addition to the estimated $3000 a month in assistance the single mother is already receiving for her first six children. This human incubator expected the world to accept her and her litter with open arms and bestow gifts and grandeur. Much to her surprise, and mine, the world is not throwing her a big baby shower and is finally asking; when is enough *enough*?
Human interest story reporters are like flies to feces at the announcement of any birth ending in “tuplet.” The media circus canonizes mothers of “tuplets” as saints for birthing a litter size that would make a Great Dane quake with fear. Microsoft Word spell-check does not even recognize the word octuplet and stops at septuplet (7). Early news of the “Suleman 8” followed the usual human interest story formula; announce birth, celebrate the miracle of survival, interview parents from previous “miracle” births, wheel and deal for the exclusive interview with the new parents. Then the news started leaking; there were already six children, the mother was single, she hadn’t worked in years. Nadya and her family learned the hard way how fragile the pedestal of a faux-celebrity can be. Her plummet from media darling mother has everyone from publicists to Pampers’ running the other direction. Even her own mother called her daughter's decision to keep expanding her family "unconscionable." Nadya Suleman has not and will not be receiving the usual free benefits that many mothers of high multiples get; there are no diapers, formula, car seats, 16 passenger van, or 14 bedroom houses, or television deals from A&E pouring in. Instead the family is receiving backlash and death threats from a citizenry already burdened with a monumental budget deficit and unemployment rates nearing the double digit mark. If she had any plans to fund her children through record book deals or a gig on reality television she and her publicists better come up with some new plans or hope people in the United States are too blind to realize that buying, watching, or reading anything that the Suleman’s produce encourages other people to risk the lives of their children to make some cash.
It is not just Californians who should be up in arms at funding these children. Federal assistance from an already strapped social security system is available to any and all of these children if their premature birth yields long term complications. It is also reported that the OctoMom's sole source of non-government income is $50,000 in student loans. Did she obtain a student loan to continue her education and instead used that money to have more children? So in addition to bilking the taxpayers of the State of California and the United States she also took money from a limited pool of student loan money leaving another legitimate student without the cash necessary to actually attend school. And who will pay when she defaults on all those loans? If she goes back to school she will attend a CalState institution and plans on using their campus daycare; now her daily daycare for fourteen children will jack up already rising tuition and fees. Did you know in fourteen states taxpayers and people paying medical premiums are funding people like Nadya Suleman to get pregnant? Even if Nayda was a gainfully employed health insurance carrying citizen, we should all still be outraged; have you ever stopped to think that the high costs of fertility treatments and multiple births could be a contributing factor to the rising cost of insurance premiums and an overtaxed healthcare system?
Investigations of the fertility specialist entrusted to care for Nadya are underway to determine if any violations occurred, whether he should maintain his license to practice, and ultimately whether the state will file criminal endangerment charges against him. Doctors learn in medical school “primum nil nocere,” roughly translated as “first, do no harm.” Creating a situation where it is impossible for a child to be born at term, of a healthy weight, and highly possible of triggering maternal complications and death is certainly harmful.
The Hippocratic Oath, the pledge made by physicians to practice medicine ethically, includes the following passages: “I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.” Implanting more embryos then a woman can safely carry is overtreatment. According to the March of Dimes a multiple birth is 6 times more likely to end in preterm labor then a single birth; the stat is worse with each additional child in the birth, and babies born early are infinitely more likely to suffer from long-term disabilities or die at birth or in infancy. Taking a “gamble” with that many embryos is just as dangerous if not more so than drinking, smoking, or walking a tight rope while pregnant. Recent reports indicate crack babies have few long term effects; smoking crack while pregnant less risky for the long term health of a baby then being part of a litter of fetuses. There is no doubt that the doctor, who claims he was just abiding by the wishes of his patient, violated his responsibility to first and foremost ensure the health of his patient and her offspring. “I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person's family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick” is an assertion made by doctors in the Hippocratic Oath. Doctors have an ethical responsibility to ensure that treatment and the result thereof does not financially, emotionally, and physically bankrupt the patient, their family, or the healthcare system.
A book could certainly be penned by dissecting every aspect of this “miracle of modern medicine” but unfortunately I do not have time to write a book, even if I am not busy raising fourteen children. This analysis of my own time, or lack thereof, as a childfree woman without the responsibilities of parenting makes it even more dumbfounding how Nadya Suleman can claim on national television that she is “responsible,” a “good mother,” and denies the label of “selfish.” How is having children you cannot afford and sticking the bill to an economically unstable state just because you always dreamed of having a big family anything less than irresponsible and selfish? Even the riskiest gambler in Vegas would think twice about the odds on “a gamble” the OctoMom made with her own life and the lives of her children. A “good mother” would not risk orphaning her six living children with such a gamble nor would she take such a gamble with the lives of her unborn children. Most mothers and fathers I know feel like they are not able to spend enough one-on-one time with their children and they have far fewer than 14, of course they also have to spend much of their day at work so people like Nayda can stay home and have their children supported by the government.
Nayda Suleman had the audacity to judge people criticizing her “unconventional” choices while taking no responsibility for how those choices will yield higher taxes and healthcare costs for those same people. If her drive and desire to have an insane number of children is not enough to demonstrate her compromised mental capacity then the delusion she will be able to raise her children on her own once she finishes her master’s degree in counseling should be enough to convince anyone in that very same field that she needs help. The average master’s level counselor in California makes $43,000 a year; anyone who thinks that is enough to raise 14 children in Southern California has to be crazy. What is sad is how Nayda Suleman turned to a fertility specialist rather than a mental health specialist to fill the obvious void she felt in her life and how the medical community let her. Even sadder is how the Department of Health and Human services requires a woman seeking sterilization to undergo a counseling session to avoid having children yet it is not required for women seeking fertility treatments (although encouraged).
At least some good is coming from this situation. People are finally starting to openly ask some difficult questions. Is bearing children a right of everyone or a privilege to those who can afford to care for them? Should a person be considered “infertile” and receive treatment if they already have a certain number of children? Should there be limits placed on the number of embryos a doctor can implant? Is implanting too many embryos malpractice? Is choosing to have children you cannot afford to provide food, shelter, and clothing to tantamount to abuse? Is medicine defying the natural order of “survival of the fittest” by creating children who were not conceived as Mother Nature, God, or whatever higher being you believe in, intended? Should mental health counseling be required for anyone seeking fertility treatments? There will always be debates regarding treatment guidelines and decisions in medicine; there is a delicate balance between “can” and “should” and the case of the Suleman Octuplets is an example of when medicine pushes well past the boundaries of what should be done.