January 30th, 2009

The octuplet mom and her doctors: no doubt she’ll end up with her own reality show

The California woman who gave birth to octuplets last Monday is now revealed to be the mother of six other children. What’s more, they are alleged to be living with her and her parents, and not a father in sight—except the grandfather of the (now fourteen) little ones.

Ah, but who are we to judge? Here are two quotes from doctors not directly involved with the case:

Doctors say they advise against higher-order births, but acknowledge the decision is not theirs to make.

“Who am I to say that six is the limit?” said Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, medical director of Fertility Institutes, which has clinics in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York City. “There are people who like to have big families.”

Dr. James Grifo, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the NYU School of Medicine, added: “I don’t think it’s our job to tell them how many babies they’re allowed to have. I am not a policeman for reproduction in the United States. My role is to educate patients.”

I agree with the doctors that they are not the reproductive police. Nor should they force parents who are carrying more than one fetus—even as many as eight, as this woman was—to selectively abort. And don’t get me wrong; I wish the mother, her babies, and in fact all her children (not to mention the grandparents, who probably have a bit of babysitting ahead of them) well.

But although not “police,” doctors make ethical and practical judgments about elective medical treatments all the time (in practice, they even make judgments about life-saving treatments, although they’re supposed to leave that to the patients). To my way of thinking, these two questions should have at least been asked by the doctors: (1) should fertility treatments be given to single parents?; and (2) should fertility treatments be given to people with six children? My answers would have been “yes, under certain circumstances” to question (1) (the circumstances would include age of parent, resources, and emotional health of parent); and “no” to question (2).

We already make similar decisions about whether such parents should be allowed to adopt. And although there are huge differences between the two situations (adoption is about someone else’s biological child, and fertility treatments are about one’s own, albeit with the help of extraordinary measures), the line should be drawn somewhere on both. I’m not a pure libertarian on this issue.

Of course, there is the knotty problem of what number of children a “too-large-for-further-fertility-treatments” family would consist of. Different doctors would draw the line at different points, no doubt. But a line should be drawn, or the doctor is being irresponsible.

It’s not that I don’t have lots of sympathy for people who have trouble conceiving. Hey, I even watch “Jon and Kate Plus 8” on occasion (shh, don’t tell anyone), although I balk at “17 Kids and Counting.” The former family, however, consists of a married couple who had fertility treatments when the only children they had at home were a set of female twins. The latter is another married couple who have had all their children, multiples and singletons, the good old-fashioned way.

The behavior of both of the couples, and their doctors, seem quite defensible. I would never argue that a couple with two children at home should not be helped with having another, or that a couple should be forced to limit the number of its own naturally-conceived biological children, although I could write another article about what I think about their decisions to air their whole families on reality TV.

I can’t help but think that the current octuplet mom has been watching too much TV on The Learning Channel, as have her doctors. How else to explain their decision to help this women have more children? Doctors can set a limit somewhere, as they are supposed to do with cosmetic surgery. There is no absolute right to have either, just because one can afford it.

Of course, the cosmetic surgeons who deal with this man and this woman seem to have the same difficulty just saying “no” to their patients’ requests.

[NOTE: The mother is keeping mum on certain relevant questions, such as whether she had fertility treatments. But since naturally-conceived octuplets are unknown, I think we can safely assume she did.]

27 Responses to “The octuplet mom and her doctors: no doubt she’ll end up with her own reality show”

  1. BigFire Says:

    Nothing that a quick drive to TJ and a couple of shots won’t fix. Remember, there are lots of clinics down there that’s more than happy to inject you with whatever ‘treatment’ you need, no questions ask.

  2. Helen Says:

    I assumed she had had treatment when I read the story. But, not being American, I have to ask. Who pays for fertility treatment over on your side of the Pond? We have had the odd scandal of NHS-funded treatment going to people who … ahem … ought not to have had it.

  3. Truth Says:

    whether she had fertility treatments

    There are few points here:

    First she had six kids she taking fertility treatments!! So why she did that and for what purposes she can justify her act?

    Is she looks for more kids? Why then she did married and creates normal family father and mother instead living with her parents.

    Should be helped?

    Here it’s very depressing question if she did it for no good reasons then what the community should do?

    Can we assume this lady have normal mind, should be tested for her state of mind and suitability to hold more 8 babies in addition to six kids.

  4. Occam's Beard Says:

    I think there’s a case to be made against fertility treatments generally. A strong case.

  5. douglas Says:

    I think these doctors are very clearly guilty of ethical violations. What is the purpose of fertility treatments? To treat the sub-normally fertile to aid in chances of conception. She, having six children already, would seem to have demonstrated that she had no need for assistance in fertility. Why then administer a fertility treatment where it was plainly unnecessary? Just because there are no serious side effects associated with fertility drugs doesn’t mean you administer them at will, does it? If she finds it too difficult to raise octuplets, can she sue her doctors?

  6. Dustoffmom Says:

    Sorry, this sounds harsh I know, but it seems to me she is determinedly working her way towards being the first welfare millionaire. Single Mother, 14 children….imagine the benefits she just qualified for. When i hear about this I don’t firstly think of a Mother in need, I see a scheming, calculating deadbeat.

  7. Dan Says:

    Let me speak as a physician first and a citizen/taxpayer second. Just because we are able to do something doesn’t mean there is an obligation to carry it out. I have patients, well meaning ones, who would like me to prescribe antibiotics for every cold, narcotics for every ache and pain and order an MRI because of a knee injury that happened yesterday. If I use my professional judgement and deny these things, I believe I am justified, just as I would deny giving fertility treatments to a woman with six children who would not agree to reduce the number of fetuses to two.
    As a tax payer and insurance premium paying consumer, I am outraged that my money might be used to pay the incredible medical bills of this “family”. We’re talking multiples of seven figures here, if things go well. And if they don’t, guess who foots the bill for special ed services for the next generation. On planet Obama, get ready to dig deep in your pocketbook.

  8. petrie Says:

    I might be wrong; but I believe the mother is married. Her husband is a contractor in Iraq earning money to support his family. He just went back.

  9. Dustoffmom Says:

    What info I have found states there is no husband and HER father is Iraqi and on his way back there to earn money.

  10. Truth Says:

    I might be wrong; but I believe the mother is married. Her husband is a contractor in Iraq earning money to support his family. He just went back

    Then well they have the case here due to DU & other chemicals weaponry that used in Iraq her husband exposed to it.

    Maybe Saddam WMD affects her husband so they had the case again to get paid from the billions frozen Iraqi money in US as that women in US she have court order to be paid $US40 Mil as she claimed that Iraq have link with 9/11 attack.

  11. Foxfier Says:


    The confirmation that the woman used IVF to conceive the eight-pack is sure to raise an ethical furor.

    The medical establishment has guidelines that discourage doctors from implanting too many embryos because multiple births are risky for mother and children.

    The octuplets were born Monday, nine weeks premature. They weighed between 1 pound, 8 ounces and 3 pounds, 4 ounces and will be in the hospital for weeks.

    The Web site momlogic.com quoted a neighbor as saying a sperm donor was used to conceive the octuplets and the six previous children, who range in age from 2 to 7.

    Suleman said raising 14 children will be “difficult” – perhaps an understatement considering the family’s reported financial troubles.

    They filed bankruptcy and abandoned a home less than two years ago. The babies’ grandfather is hoping to raise some cash by heading to his native Iraq as a contractor.


  12. Dustoffmom Says:

    I apologize Truth, but darn if i can make heads nor tails of what you wrote. Wouldn’t normally mention it but since you quoted me I was curious about what you were saying. Care to try once again? SHE, the Mother, does not have a husband, and the man in Iraq is her father, the babies grandfather.

  13. Y-not Says:

    I must confess I can’t relate to anyone going through fertility treatments, IVF, or similar exercises when they could adopt a child, but I don’t think it is our place to say.

    I assume that the treatments weren’t “given” to this woman — they were paid for privately. Assuming that, then it’s not government’s business.

    And, I don’t see how society can bless facilitating gay couples or rich, single celebrities conceiving children then turn around and condemn the act based on someone’s family size. (I am not intending this to be taken as a slam on gay couples, it’s just an example of a group that is more popular with some than people with large families are these days.)

  14. Y-not Says:

    The confirmation that the woman used IVF to conceive the eight-pack is sure to raise an ethical furor.

    Wow. Who refers to 8 babies as an “eight-pack”?

  15. Y-not Says:

    If I use my professional judgement and deny these things, I believe I am justified, just as I would deny giving fertility treatments to a woman with six children who would not agree to reduce the number of fetuses to two.

    Are you allowed to insert your own morality into your medical practice that way?

    What’s the difference between your position and a doctor refusing to give out birth control or perform abortions? I thought a doctor was not allowed to make decisions about what she would or would not do based on her personal convictions or religion.

  16. Foxfier Says:

    Well, I’m just a ranch kid whose mother does basic AI, but if I HAD to put myself in the situation of doing IVF, I’d only want at the most two eggs “prepared” at a time, and put in- no matter how many kids the lady already has.

    Much more than twins can hurt folks.

  17. Occam's Beard Says:

    I assume that the treatments weren’t “given” to this woman — they were paid for privately. Assuming that, then it’s not government’s business.

    Unless they come to the government with their hands out, which they’re virtually guaranteed to do. That makes it our business. If Bill and Melinda Gates want to bang out a litter every year, I’ve got no problem. This lot is another story entirely. They’ll be queueing up for a handout faster than you can say “Barack Obama.”

    And, I don’t see how society can bless facilitating gay couples or rich, single celebrities conceiving children then turn around and condemn the act based on someone’s family size. (I am not intending this to be taken as a slam on gay couples, it’s just an example of a group that is more popular with some than people with large families are these days.)

    Not popular with me.

    For my part, I don’t bless any of the groups you mentioned. “Gay” “couples” (I don’t know which term is more inappropriate) most definitely should not be allowed to adopt children, any more than any other kinds of pervert. Period. (“No, I’m sorry Mr. Dahmer/Gacy, you cannot adopt any boys. Nice try, though.”)

    Single Hollywood “celebrities” should not be allowed to adopt either. They should go to the pound and get a dog, or better yet, a cat (I love dogs, but don’t care much for cats). Cats are better suited to galloping narcissists, it seems, because they don’t really care about people as long as they get fed.

    And someone who has six kids and pursues IVF (apparentlyl unnecessary in this case, as it looks like the old-fashioned way was working just fine) is an abomination. Have ‘em, sure – but don’t give her a dime from the taxpayers. Decisions have consequences. Make the IVF quack support her and the kids!

  18. SteveH Says:

    I suspect the grandfather has experience at cost benefit analysis and we may see more babies. Probably no coincidence either his trips to Iraq will likely subside sometime after the terrible twos.

  19. Tom Says:

    This case is about 10 standard deviations from the norm, and I think it ridiculous to respond in any sense. As a very rare event (first of its kind, actually!) we should not invest any attention other than “whew! Glad they’re not mine”). Freak events are poor platforms for policy-making. As to costs, the kids are just 8 more wards of the state, among millions. Sorry, Neo.

  20. bailout nation Says:

    “Court records show Suleman filed for bankruptcy last March, but after she failed to make required payments and appear at a creditors’ meeting, the case was dismissed. She reported liabilities of $981,371, mostly money owed on two houses she owns in Whittier.”

    A neighbor who talked to a reporter gave a lot more shocking details:

    “She is single. She used a sperm donor, someone she knew, who donated sperm a long time ago. He donated the sperm for the first six kids and she used his frozen sperm for these ones. I don’t think the sperm donor knows about these eight kids. He was not involved.”

    If you look closely at the new House stimulus bill HR1, she just set herself and her kids up for life.. She will live high on government money, the children will eat for free compliments of food stamps, this family will never have to pay a doctor or hospital bill and will have access to the best care in this country, compliments of hard working American taxpayers. The children will benefit from a free-ride to any college of their choice. Section 8 subsidy for rent of 2500-3000 a month for any place she wants to live. Free daycare so she can get out of the house and work part-time and yet keep all the govie assistance money. What is to stop her from having more? Why should she stop when she makes more and more money for each one she pops out.. Just research the HR1.. It’s all there and spelled out clearly. Really… Take some time and read the house stimulus bill. When her friends find out how much money she makes from govie assistance for having babies then how many of them will pop out babies for income? Welcome to the Obama administration.. and to think I voted for Obama and change..

  21. petrie Says:

    Dustoffmom; you are correct; great heavens. what a mess!

  22. Therese Says:

    I live in California, although it’s a good thing I don’t live in Los Angeles County. This woman is both selfish and psychotic. She doesn’t have a husband and her parents lost their residence as a result of helping their daughter.

    I think this woman should be arrested. Her actions are criminal, in my opinion. If she wanted children so badly, she should have adopted (although, I think they would have found she is crazy–who, in their right mind, goes back to the sperm bank in order to have MORE kids?)

    I’m all for women having the choice to do what they want with their bodies and I love kids. However, I think this woman was selfish. It will be a miracle if these innocent eight babies survive and if they don’t, who’s to blame? This crazy lady!

    So what’s going to happen? Like someone mentioned she’s going to have a free ride with welfare and the people of Los Angeles County will be footing the bill. She can personally thank her fellow residents for supporting her because it will be their tax money supporting her kids.

    I think this woman has watched too many episodes of that idiotic show, Jon and Kate Plus Eight. I think this woman knew exactly what she was doing and anyone who gets invitro knows the risk of multiple births. Now she’s an insta-celebrity who is supposedly a “professional” student and has no means to support her 14 kids. She’s beyond irresponsible and I think the kids should be taken away from her and she should be locked up!

    Tom, if you were living in California you’d be singing a different tune. It’s not just 8 kids–try another 14 kids mooching off the state of California.

    Her parents are claiming she’s been obsessed with wanting a lot of kids. If she wanted kids so much, then she should have adopted. The saddest part is there are so many kids who need good homes (although, it’s probably a GOOD thing she didn’t adopt).

    Now this woman is going to use her kids for celebrity status now and will be begging someone for a reality TV show. Oprah is already knocking on her door which disgusts me.

    I feel very bad for these kids. I am from a large family and there were 6 of us. My mom worked 3 jobs as a single parent just to pay the rent and put food on the table. My mom has a college degree, is an incredibly successful and smart person and she still struggled. There is no way on this earth my mom could have survived with another 8 kids on top of us 6 kids. It was tough enough as it was.

    @Occam’s Beard: Re: your comment about gay couples–you’re a homophobic idiot. How dare you put gay couples in the same sentence as pedophiles and perverts? People like YOU disgust me. YOU should be the one banned from adopting kids. I would never want your hateful, homophobic influence on children. You need to pull your head out of your ignorant Bible-thumping world and join reality. You are exactly the reason why I’m glad Obama is in office. Be gone with you crazy Christian Freaks!

  23. Adagny Says:

    According to a newly hired “family spokesman”-

  24. Oh, bother Says:

    She had the remaining eight zygotes implanted and the donor knows nothing of it? He’s in for a shock….

    I think she sounds seriously disturbed.

  25. dOLLY Says:

    Now that I know the truth – not married and obsessed with children!!! It makes me sick. I worked for the state for a short while and saw all of these “career welfare” people. The more kids the more money, more food, more free rent, more free medical – all on our tax dollars. Many already had 3+ kids with different last names. Many were unmarried with a live in boyfreind. But yet they wore enough gold around their neck to buy a lexus for cash. They almost all had blackberry phones. They had perfect veneer teeth. They had perfectly manicured sculpted nails. They drove late model vehicles. I would hear them talking in the lobby about when they were going to plan their next child so that they wouldn’t lose their benefits. My husband hasn’t worked in going on years because of serious illness and we are fighting for social security benefits – we finally had to ask for attorney assistance. I am the working person in the family, which I don’t mind, I love working. But, when I lost my job last year I could get no public assistance in Florida. Why? Because we have no children. In Florida only those with children, those with disability, or those 65 or older are eligible for assistance. Oh, I forgot, I do get less than $5 a day food stamps for myself and my husband- and that is only for three months. I am being punished because I was unable to have children. I did not choose to adopt. I have nieces and nephews I love as my own. Why is my financial situation any different than someone with children. Job loss is job loss whether you have children or not. We all pay federal taxes all of our lives, yet when we need help each state makes their own rules on where the federal funds should go. Florida offers no help to those without children – and in today’s economy there are many people who do not have children who are in diar straights because of job loss. In Florida there is no help for them. This woman is really selfish to bring more children into this world so that the rest of us can pay for her fine lifestyle c/o our taxes and our government. Not to mention that she is teaching her children that you can sit on your rear and government is going to always take care of you.

  26. FredHjr Says:

    We now know that she’s a Palestinian, 33 years old, and a graduate psychology student. Her parents are bankrupt. Now, in vitro fertilization is quite expensive, so I submit the 64K question: Who financed this? Follow the money and you’ll know the reasons.

    My guess is that it has finger prints all over it that point towards the benefactors being from the Hijaz.

    Papa Suleman says that they are going to house her at a much bigger house at an undisclosed location. Can’t belong to him, since he’s insolvent. Who’s been paying for the prior six kids? Who is paying the hospital bills and who will be providing home and income for this 33 year old grad student? No husband. No boyfriend.

    I’m suspicious.

  27. Jack Says:

    There have been cases of naturally concieved octuplets



    Apprently there’s been 4 to 5, and the chances of it happening have been estimated at 1 in a trillion. Sounds about right lol.

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