Thursday, March 25, 2010

A lesson learned the hard way (update)

Nadya Suleman (a/k/a ‘Octomom’) shares the lessons she’s learned the hard way—with PETA helping her out, too.

Nadya Suleman is the infamous single California woman at the center of an ethical firestorm because of her use of assisted reproductive technologies to implant IVF embryos and carry 8 babies, all at once, to term.  In addition to this, she had 6 children at home, all brought into being with the help of IVF.  Her actions and the actions of the physician who implanted 6 embryos (2 split to become twins) prompted an outcry in the medical ethics community, prompting questions such as “How far does reproductive autonomy go?” and “How many children is too many?”

As I had noted in a blog entry here previously, there are multiple ethical considerations at play when an IVF specialist is approached by any woman and a ‘burden vs benefit’ analysis is employed. IEET Fellow George Dvorsky blogged: “By implanting 8 embryos in a mother predisposed to multiple births, they put her health at risk and they significantly increased the likelihood of her introducing a multiplicity of babies into a family that was already over-extended.” Bioethicist Art Caplan noted that “Society is getting stuck with the bill when she made this choice to be an infertility patient; It is more than her interests. It affects her kids and it affects the rest of us.”  The media attention to this case prompted medical ethicists to question the adequacy of ART (Assisted Reproductive Technologies) oversight: the American Society for Reproductive Medicine convened a conference to start a dialogue on this issue and a summary of discussion can be seen here and here. Fortunately, more than a year out, this case has turned out to be a real outlier and does not represent a trend in the ART industry.

And since then, Nadya Suleman has expressed deep regret at her decision—the costs have been extreme; the home in which she is living is being threatened with foreclosure and the impact of her decision is now coming down to bear heavily.  And as ticked off as everyone was at her and her IVF physician, no one I know thinks that her children should suffer more for her bad decision.  And, fortunately, most Americans (I would like to believe, anyway) have the heart to forgive someone who admits they have screwed up—and we love to hear stories about redemption.

And the redemption here is that the Associated Press has reported that Nadya Suleman (a/k/a ‘Octomom’) doesn’t want your pet to suffer the same fate:  PETA has negotiated a deal with the Ms. Suleman that allows them to post a PETA sign in her front yard trumping the value of spaying or neutering pets. The deal was in exchange for a one-time payment and a month’s worth of veggie burgers and veggie hot dogs for her and her children. The full story can be seen here.
Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

[Cross posted over at the IEET blog]

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