Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Reproductive Autonomy Runs Amok

In a follow-up post to Kelly's previous post, it seems that Nadya Suleman's use of IVF technology is clear misuse and abuse of ARTs (Assisted Reproductive Technologies). The doctor who implanted the embryos should be investigated, because in helping this woman become pregnant with 8 children, he or she violated one of the basic tenets of medicine -- "Do No Harm". Hopefully, the Board of Medical Licensure will investigate and determine what the possible motivation was for this doctor's actions, whether it was a one time lapse in judgment due to extreme personal difficulties, or if it represents a small part of a larger pattern of unethical behavior and practice for the doctor and the fertility clinic.

There are multiple ethical considerations at play when an IVF specialist is approached by any woman and a 'burden vs benefit' analysis is employed. When someone who has already had six children through the procedure seeks more, I cannot imagine a valid or justifiable benefit -- the burdens include physical and financial costs to the mother (who has already declared bankruptcy), to the grandmother, to the siblings, to the children born, and to society. And while one might argue that this is an exercise in reproductive autonomy, we, as a society need to ask 'how far does reproductive autonomy go?' Does it include the right to create children who been disabled or dis-enhanced? (A nightmare scenario vaguely reminiscent of Dean Koontz' novel, One Door Away from Heaven). How we answer this question will have an impact on how we deal with future cases, such as those involving genetic engineering.

Hopefully, this case will call attention to the need for regulation and oversight of Assisted Reproductive Technologies. Currently, we have a laissez-faire attitude towards ARTs and fertility clinics; we have trusted the doctors and clinics to regulate themselves, via the American Society for Reproductive Medicine --and this case demonstrates that we can no longer simply turn a blind eye.


Kelly Hills said...

To be very honest, Linda, one of the reasons I've yet to weigh in much anywhere about the ethics of a fertility doctor implanting this many embryos is, from the bits and pieces of information that have come out about the case, I'm very much expecting to eventually hear that through her job at the fertility clinic (or somehow), she got ahold of her remaining embryos and self-implanted.

Admittedly, I have a fertile (heh) imagination, and can craft a lot of situations to explain away the fact that there are still a lot of fishy questions surrounding this case.

Sue Trinidad said...

I haven't heard confirmation that this actually was IVF. If a woman simply took drugs to stimulate hyperovulation and didn't go through the usual process (take 'em out, fertilize 'em, stick 'em back in) she might not need IVF to end up with 8 embryos on board. Seems like something she could have done on her own given access to the appropriate meds (which given her place of employment seems possible).

Driver said...

Embryos were implanted after being thawed. The story was she didn't want to destroy them, so she just carried them all.

And wouldn't ya know, there ARE people out on the web who are claiming any woman can have any number of children she DESIRES and that's it's no one's business but hers.

I got a lot of flak both online and off two years ago because I believe IVF is a good way to disable a child. I knew a woman who went through it in 1993 and after aborting 10 fetuses she gave birth to disabled twins. Such a lot of death and destruction to get those cute baby outfits. And I went to a "preemies picnic" sponsored by a local children's hospital and there were lots of disabled IVF babies in there.

What about accepting God's will?

IVF is more about making mommy happy than making healthy children, and that's wrong. Nadya Suleman proves my point in octuplets.

The Music Therapist said...

Reminds me of the song by the Beatles, Lady Madonna:

Lady Madonna, children at your feet
Wonder how you manage to make ends meet
Who find the money when you pay the rent
Did you think that money was heaven sent?

Friday night arrives without a suitcase
Sunday morning creeping like a nun
Monday's child has learned to tie his bootlegs
See how they run

Lady Madonna, baby at your breast
Wonders how you manage to feed the rest?

I wonder if the Beatles were prescient? ;>)