Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Too much crazy for one day!

When I heard about the recent birth of octuplets January 26th, I'll admit that my instant reaction was anger--even before all this junk came out about the mother--when the news was still reporting on the "miracle babies" who were all healthy. Oh really? Ask any other mother in the world if she would classify her 1 lb 8oz baby as healthy and tell me what she says. Ask her if she sleeps soundly at night confident she will awake to an active and healthy baby. Ask her if her worst nightmare is a colicky baby. My guess is, her waking nightmares probably would frighten you out of a few nights sleep just to hear them. Hey, I'll even save you the trouble of finding a woman, just ask the March of Dimes. How about the stats on permanent cognitive conditions for premature babies, or high number of multiples? What, they're not good? I'm shocked! Women are not meant to have litters, there is a reason this doesn't ever happen naturally, and I get so sick of the news making it look "amazing" and "miraculous" to have your very own collection of itty bitty babies. Why have one when you can have eight? Besides, no one ever got a TV special having 8 individual babies--you've got to do it all in one crack to get the assistance you want. It is only when the relative level of normal becomes inexcusably distorted that anyone would consider "alive" to be synonymous with "healthy."
I wasn't mad at the mother initially, I was angry at the doctor. I've talked to several friends who have done IVF treatments (well before this happened) and all have said chose doctors who refused to implant a number of embryos that have even a slight chance of resulting in high multiple pregnancies to patients who would not be open to selective reduction. After speaking to them and doing my own research, I think it is flat out unethical, no matter the reproductive history, to create a situation that would make it even in the realm of possible to have this large a number of multiples. As much as I love Jon and Kate plus Eight (and I do), it is not right for a doctor to take 7 lives in his hands in this manner. It is unsafe for the babies as well as the mothers to carry so many babies. There is a good reason the fact that all eight of these babies even lived (even at an insanely small size) is medically notable. Do not misunderstand me on this point, I am thrilled that our medical advances have come so far to allow babies that would have received an instant death sentence a mere 20 years ago to live long healthy lives. I do not think however, that because these strides have been made, doctors should in anyway be attempting to push the envelope of the possible on purpose. We should be making strides to help situations we can not avoid, not creating dire situations ourselves and then congratulate ourselves on fixing them at the 11th hour.
All this was before the news started rolling in. The mother has 6 other children, all conceived with IVF. Now I'm wondering why in the world the doctor was implanting such a high level of embryos in a woman who had success so many times before. Three of her children have special needs. Great, add in a history of complications with these babies, but continue to stack the odds against her by making it likely that more babies with them, as well as less time to meet the needs of the ones she already has. All her kids are under the age of 7. Yeah, and make sure her body isn't recovering adequately from all these pregnancies before attempting another. I'm sure her depleted baby-growing nutrients had nothing to do with the younger children's disabilities, you're the doctor after all, not me. She's single. She is unemployed. She is totally broke. At this point, I just threw up my hands and thought what the heck is going on here!!!???
I was already mad, but after all this, I felt a little sick to my stomach on top of it. What is wrong with this woman? Does she even care one iota for the kids she already has, or is she just trying to set some sort of record for birthing? Is this some sort of weird variation of Munchhausen syndrome where she gets the attention she needs from her alarmingly disturbing situation by making it epically worse? So, because I wanted to give her a fair shake and see for myself what I thought, I watched her interview with Anne Curry last night. I watched it even though I hate Dateline.
I don't know why her PR rep thought this would help the situation, because frankly, after listening to her twisted logic and loose grasp on reality, I like Nadya Suleman even less. I didn't think that was possible, but I do. First was her stubborn statement on chosing to remain single and being dubbed irresponsible with "why can't a couple be called irresponsible?" I knew I would have issues with her then, and I think that was minute one of the interview. In response to Ms. Suleman, let me say this. Number one, if a couple decides to have 14 kids, with both of them unemployed, broke, living off their parents and student loans, etc, you'd better believe they'd be called irresponsible, assuming kids were listening and I therefore couldn't use the words I would prefer. Two, the reason a couple is more acceptable in this situation than one person is because it is generally assumed that one can provide money while the other provides the care. While I don't necessarily agree with Mrs. Clinton on the whole "it takes a village" thing, it certainly takes more than one person to provide for and raise 14 children. The interview was downhill from there at an Olympic gold medal pace. I was particularly upset when she said she was living off of student loans and it was okay to continue having copious numbers of kids because she knew when she was done with school and working "as a counselor" she would be able to provide for them. I'm so very sorry honey, but you are all over the news being touted as the poster child for crazy and delusional. I do not want to meet (in this life or the next for that matter), any person who would go to you for counseling and advice. The person who considers you a stablizing influence has issues no human being can fix. Not to mention the cost of daycare for 14 children will most likely outweigh the income of a counselor, even if you had a potential client base to begin with. Forethought obviously isn't her strong suit. I won't even touch the food stamps are not welfare argument.
However, even with all my rancor and rage in this situation, there is some rage people need to redirect in the face of fairness. Ironically enough, the first target of my rage is now who I'm defending, the doctor in all this.
Let's get one thing straight, angry people of America, the only thing the doctor should be held to account for is the number of embryos implanted in this woman. Period. To say he is irresponsible to perform IVF on a single, broke woman who already had 6 kids is flat-out wrong. There is no way on earth that a doctor should make the call of how many children a woman should have--the only call he makes is how many she can safely have at one time, if he is the one making the pregnancy happen in the first place. The pretense that some woman can have as many children as she wants naturally (by either accident or design with any number of men) is none of our business but a woman who needs help to concieve should have some sort of number cap put on by her doctor is insane. Neither situation is our business, as long as the children are taken care of. One could even argue that a woman who pays and struggles for her kids does want them more than a woman who gets pregnant multiple times on accident, and the woman with fertility issues will therefore be a better mother. There are several large families out there that reached that size completely unintended, and it doesn't make them better parents than those with a few children who can remember (or choose) to exercise caution.
The doctor also has no right to determine if she can afford these children. Frankly, if it were me, as a fertility doctor who charges upwards of $10,000 per cycle, I would assume my clients have at least sufficient funds for a baby--all the more for being able to pay it 7 times over. It would never even occur to me to ask "Is this money that would be better spent paying for the specialists your autistic son needs? Or maybe buying food for your other 6 children?" Financial situations change, as this economy has shown time and time again, so to put a doctor in charge of auditing his patients for their parenting readiness is a violation of patient rights that is inaccurate at best anyway. If anything, it shows me that maybe the government should audit before handing out welfare, just to make sure someone doesn't have say, $20 grand in a baby bank, before handing out food stamps. What's to stop just anyone from collecting food stamps because the money they do have they just do not want to use on food? That's the crime here, not that the doctor gave a patient the treatment she paid for.
Finally, we have to remember that the laws that protect patients' privacy are totally shafting the doctor on this one. Everyone keeps saying he made no comment, or rejected their request for an interview as if it's because he's hiding something, but what they are not saying is that he legally can not do otherwise. HIPAA laws protect patients in so many ways, even keeping the doctor from saying whether or not they are a patient, which means that this woman could be lying like a rug, but the doctor can not weigh in on his own defense without violating federal law. She could stand up on camera and say he implanted her with 12 embryos instead of giving her a routine pap smear, and he would not be able to say a word to the press. The governing body of his field is the only department who can and will find out the whole story, and in the meantime, this doctor is stuck--silent and dragged through the mud. Not a place I'd like to be, to be sure. The fact that this mother has already been caught in half-truths like crazy (no pun intended), and her own mother is alleging she lied about the doctor, I'm going to say there is way more to this story that we will never know, but it's likely the mother is throwing him under the bus in some way.
The doctor's only stewardship is the health of the mother and babies, and outside of that, keeping tabs on a woman he sees for an hour a visit is not in his job description. It was wrong to endanger the health of the babies and mother by implanting so many, but everything else being laid at his feet is just vindictiveness.
I understand the anger. As a society, what we are really mad about is the rock and hard place that this woman's selfish actions have wedged us between. Do we come together and give her what she needs to adequately care for her children, teaching her (and them) that you can do whatever you want and someone will bail you out of your own stupidity? Do we leave her to her own devices and let these children suffer the consequences of their mother's strange choices? That's why I'm really mad at least--I'm mad at the news for throwing this woman's problems in my lap, and making me have to decide what side of this complicated issue I am on. Yes, I personally am not going to be writing the Suleman family a check, but this still solidifies all the arguments I've been rolling around my head in the abstract. Recent politics have already put these issues at the forefront of our minds, but this is a hard core example of the conflict placed in front of my face that I can not ignore. When it comes down to brass tacks, when I have to look at a specific face affected by our decisions, rather than an amorphous ideology, where do I stand? Do I run in and save these children a life of poverty and pain and in the process save their mother from herself and teach people that no matter what you do to screw your own life up, someone else will make it okay? Am I okay with watching her fall hard, even though she's taking 14 innocent children down with her? Does it make me heartless that I don't want my family's meager resources going to bail her out of her own mess, because while I do pity these children, they in no way rank above my own in my heart and mind? Do I believe I have to pay to assist someone whose motivations and mindset I completely despise because of the indirect effect of her decisions?
I still don't know exactly where I stand on these issues, but I know I lean towards the heartless side, because I don't believe in protecting people from consequences they have rightly earned. For crying out loud, this situation has even forced me to assess my feelings about reproductive technology and medical ethics, which is enough to handle on its own.
I guess I'm mad because a line has been drawn in the sand for me, by someone who had no right to draw it, but now I can't pretend it hasn't made me think.
Even if I don't feel like it.


Alison said...

You bring up a lot of good points. What struck me when I watched the interview is that she seemed to feel entitled to all these children simply because she wanted a large family. She clearly did not take into consideration if she could afford additional children or if she could handle more children, (because really, no one person on their own could handle the physical and emotional toll that six children that young would bring without damaging someone involved). She just kept doing it because she could and because it's what she wanted and for some reason felt she deserved. Sure everyone deserves happiness, but not necessarily at the expense of others. What really bothered me is that she said if her kids were older and able to vocalize that they did not want other siblings, she would have stopped at six. Now, granted had my parents listened to me on such issues, my youngest brother wouldn't be around, but hearing her say that just really rubbed me the wrong way. It's like she knew that her kids would have told her things like "you already are too busy", but since they weren't old enough to completely express their thoughts (though by the looks of the last segment, they are), their thoughts didn't matter.

And just an FYI, when applying for food stamps, many states, if not all, will look at anything you have in your savings. Clearly, you could lie and leave out an account or two, but savings account money is taken into consideration. This could be true for medical insurance too, but is not true for WIC.

Kym said...

The problem that I have is that she will be handed her "bail out". This is her winning lottery ticket and she will be cashing in. I feel bad for the poor babies. They have a crazy mother and they'll learn to seek for handouts and will not value hard work at all.

Natalie said...


Carly said...

Thank you Alison!!! You added to what I was going for perfectly! I hate the attitude that anything you do is okay if it gives you what you want. Exactly it.