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You no doubt have read or heard the news about the woman who gave birth to octopulets last week through IVF, after having already had six other children through assisted reproductive technologies. Many of the news reports had interviews with medical doctors saying that they were not prepared to talk about the ethics of the situation.

Last spring, we brought together theologians, ethicists, and experts in ART to develop a new Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Assisted Reproductive Technologies. It calls for religious leaders to become knowledge about ARTS and for scientists to engage with religious leaders and theologians to consider the ethical implications of these new technologies. One of the participant's words still ring in my ears: "Just because we can, should we?"

Please go to our web site and read the Open Letter and the accompanying support materials, including books for more information, a responsive reading, and questions for reflection. And weigh in.

Just because we can, should we?

-Rev. Debra W. Haffner

Originally posted to Religious Institute on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 01:25 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I have always marveled at right-to-lifers... (12+ / 0-)

    ... and the self-righteous bloviators blabbering on about the "sanctity of life."

    Meanwhile, two eighth graders are down in the park banging in the bushes and next thing you know, little Mary is knocked up.

    "Sanctity of life" my ass.

    I have not GBCWed. I'm just not commenting at present.

    by Bob Johnson on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 01:28:48 PM PST

  •  Even when something's unethical, (5+ / 0-)

    there will always be an unethical practitioner who will do anything for a buck.

    Barack Obama in the Oval Office. There's a black man who knows his place.

    by Greasy Grant on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 01:32:13 PM PST

  •  I have thought the same about other issues. (6+ / 0-)

    Just because we can, should we?  In my case, it is nuclear weapons and nuclear power that I feel we should stop and reconsider.

    In fact, as a tot when WWII ended and being a first grade child watching the newsreels of the atom bomb attacks on Japan and their aftermath and watching US experimentsl nuclear explosions blasting to smithereens tethered pigs wearing military uniforms (to see how much protection a uniform offered), I decided when I was 6 years old to never have children.  The reason -- I did not want to allow my country to blow up my children. the elites...actually believe that society can be destroyed by anyone except those who lead them? - John Ralston Saul -

    by Silverbird on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 01:38:41 PM PST

  •  I think like anything else, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    musicsleuth, snackdoodle

    if it's right for you and it doesn't hurt anyone else, do it responsibly.  If it's not right for you, don't do it.

    I can't imagine telling a couple that wanted children badly that yes, we have the technology, but you see these religious people have decided you can't avail yourself of it.  Sorry!

    I think the government and the church should stay out of the personal lives of people who don't invite them in.

    •  A large number of babies all at once (13+ / 0-)

      though can hurt each other.  When a pregnacy goes over three embryos, all of the children are going to be born early and significantly underweight.  This raises their risks for a host of problems.

      I have a friend who, some 10 years ago when she unmarried, ended up accidently getting pregant and having 5 (two sets of twins plus one).  All 5 were in the hospital for months after they were born, none of them were over 3 pounds at birth and they all have varying degrees of physical and developmental problems.

      While I don't think the government should be involved in telling people what they can do with their bodies, I do think medical ethics should prevent the implanting of multiple embryos.  IVF is definitely a wonderful thing, but the suffering a baby born at barely a pound has to endure, not so much.

      the third eye does not weep. it knows. Political compass: -9.75 / -8.72

      by mijita on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 01:50:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't think that woman was the point of this (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mijita, Rick Winrod, snackdoodle

        diary.  I think the point was, "should we allow people to use assisted reproductive technologies."  I think a poor example was used to bias the responses.

        And like I said - I think we should if it's done responsibly.  Multiple doctors have said this particular case was malpractice.  And definitely a welfare fraud.  And the mother has clear mental issues which I would think would have been apparent to a qualified doctor.

        Perhaps to really answer the question, though, perhaps it would be enlightening to ask the actual products of IVF and other fertility treatments.  They are people.  Should they have been "allowed" to exist?  Geez.

    •  What happened with 8 babies is a failure a great (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bustacap, Crabby Abbey, Dretutz

      big failure and a black eye to the whole process of assisted pregnancies. No ethical MD would ever introduce 8 embryos. It is certainly a danger to the mother and to the babies as well. There is of course selected reduction, the clever euphemism for we goofed so now we have to kill some of those future babies. IMO it cheapens life when women are impregnated with litters and selective abortion or giving birth to babies with serious problems are the only options. I don't get where the diarist thinks MDs aren't talking about this, I have heard dozens talking about what happened being against agreed to ethical procedures. i haven't heard a single one thinking this was OK in any way.

  •  Our welfare dollars are paying the bill of the (5+ / 0-)

    Lady with the large litter of kids, from the get-go. Why aren't the Repugs screaming to the high heavens over that.  She had NO job, she wasn't MARRIED, her father, who was her support, had filed for BANKRUPCY, yet the doctor went ahead and implanted multiple eggs.  Who paid thet bill?  Litter lady was in the hospital WEEK before delivery.  Who paid that bill?  Complicated delivery involved 50+ medical personal. Who paid that bill?  And that's just the beginning of the expenses.  Pony up Folks ... these babies are going to cost us all a lot of money.  Where are the ethics and morals for this kind of welfare fraud?

    •  I do not believe ANY public funds are available (0+ / 0-)

      for fertility issues and very often insurance doesn't cover them either.

    •  I imagine that hospital's billing department (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bustacap, drmah

      is going to be hounding her for years.  Even if someone is idiotic enough to pay her for her story, it'll all go to pay her kids' hospital bills.

      A jackass can kick down a barn but it takes a carpenter to build one.--Sam Rayburn (D-TX)

      by Ice Blue on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 02:42:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think she had medical insurance (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ice Blue, Bernie68

        (not for the fertility treatment but for her pregnancy) via Kaiser Permanente.  I can't think of any other reason why she would have given birth at a Kaiser hosptial.  They're generally only open to Kaiser members.

        So hopefully she and the children are all covered.  

        the third eye does not weep. it knows. Political compass: -9.75 / -8.72

        by mijita on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 02:53:24 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Kaiser also covers (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          mijita, Ice Blue, Dretutz

          welfare patients. If she is unemployed and has Kaiser and 6 previous children, chances are that it is all covered through her welfare status. Aid to families with dependant children?? Whatever it's called, Kaiser contracts with the State of California and provides that coverage to those who choose it.

          Those who choose Kaiser -- if on State aid -- have to be living in areas that are already served by Kaiser.

          Once covered she has good benefits, based on whatever the State contracted.

          I'm not saying that I know this for sure about her individual status.

          Once hospitalized, no one makes any differentiation between patients who are on State aid and those who are covered through their jobs or are self-covering.

          One article said that Kaiser did not do the IVF.

          And yes, chances are that she was hospitalized on bedrest for awhile prior to giving birth and that the babies will remain hospitalized until approx. the original due date. It all depends on the weight gain and other conditions.

    •  It is not fraud. (0+ / 0-)

      Obviously she is in real need. It isn't the fault of those babies that they were born poor, and they deserve whatever assistance they state can give. They are helpless, and this woman cannot possibly earn enough money to provide for a family of six AND pay for the child care of six.

      The ethics of it are indeed questionable, as this delivery was dangerous to her. But it is done. I'm far more willing for my contribution of tax dollars to go to a single mother of six, than to have it go to a single executive of a failing bank. Those guys are the real welfare frauds.

      "YOPP!" --Horton Hears a Who

      by Reepicheep on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 04:38:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  They believe if they can, it's b/c God wants it (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    In a weird way, these people are the ultimate expressions of a particular brand of Classical and later Enlightenment-era philosophy: the idea that the divine will is expressed in the workings of Nature, and that to live in accordance with Nature and one's nature is the path to perfect righteousness.

    The instinctive impulse to reproduce is to them a physical expression of the command to "be fruitful and multiply", and that unwillingness and barriers to reproduction are human rebellion against the divine plan. Eight children all at once and 14 children in total, almost regardless of how they were conceived or whether the mother has the means or desire to care for them properly is by definition God's will simply because it happened: to them, this woman is not only fulfilling her proper role by Nature and therefore by God, but has been singularly blessed with sheer quantity of children.

    Furthermore, eight children where only one was desired is going to be spun as a miraculous triumph of divine love and fertility against Satanic birth control and antipathy towards children expressed by a refusal to have as many as possible.

    You say you can't do something because you don't want to do it. Now ask yourself why, and realize you don't have a good reason.

    by Visceral on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 01:46:08 PM PST

  •  IVF is a medical treatment for infertility -- (14+ / 0-)

    with six previous children, this woman did not qualify as infertile and any doctor that treated her was engaged in malpractice.

    What FDR giveth; GWB taketh away.

    by Marie on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 01:48:59 PM PST

    •  Not to mention that the doctor (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mijita, bustacap, Ice Blue

      implanted 8 embryos in the woman - and every doctor I have heard speak on this has said it was dangerous to the babies and the month.
      The woman stated she only wanted one more baby. So why the heck did the doctor implant 8?

      Electing conservatives is like hiring a carpenter who thinks hammers are evil.

      by MA Liberal on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 02:33:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  For women having fertility problems, (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Marie, MA Liberal, Lujane, Toon

        it's not unusual for the doctor to implant 3 or 4 in the hope that one will take.  

        I have friends who went through 6 months of IVF treatment in hope of having a child.  Each time they had the egg harvesting and embryo implanting done the cost was about $8000.  So doctors can try and narrow the odds by using more than one embryo.  

        But given that the woman in question didn't have fertility problems, it does seem like malpractice.

        the third eye does not weep. it knows. Political compass: -9.75 / -8.72

        by mijita on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 02:51:19 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I realize that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          But as Dr. Timothy Johnson said this week eight is simply too many to implant. It meant one or more of the babies lives were put in danger as well as the life of the mother. If she wanted "just one more" they could have implanted 3 or 4. But eight?

          Electing conservatives is like hiring a carpenter who thinks hammers are evil.

          by MA Liberal on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 03:24:14 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Definitely agreed (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MA Liberal

            And given that she had no problems, I think anything more than two was very risky.

            I feel sorry for them all.  They're so painfully tiny.

            the third eye does not weep. it knows. Political compass: -9.75 / -8.72

            by mijita on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 04:47:34 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  I also heard that because of her being young (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MA Liberal

            and having six kids already, the number of embryos implanted was gross negligence.  Young women usually get fewer.

            There has got to be action against someone in this.  She is covering for the clinic ... won't name them.  What about some fertility board?  Absolutely unbelievable.

      •  Is that hearsay or fact? Has the IVF doctor (0+ / 0-)

        spoken in public?  

        If she wanted just one, doctors would have done selective abortion -- in fact they recommended it.

        A single woman with six children has a screw or two loose to want even one more baby.  But I don't think that's the story and we'll have to wait for a while to find out what it really is.

        What FDR giveth; GWB taketh away.

        by Marie on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 03:03:13 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Just because we can, should we (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mijita, Lujane, snackdoodle

    is a question that swirls constantly in my head. This case is one of the more glaring examples where my head screams no, we shouldn't.

    1.20.09: The end of an error; the beginning of an era

    by Vita Brevis on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 01:54:12 PM PST

  •  As a religious figure, you should stay (2+ / 2-)
    Recommended by:
    chemicalresult, snackdoodle
    Hidden by:
    alliedoc, Lujane

    the fuck out of it. You and all your associates have forfeited any input on this question by accepting guidance from a 2000 year old propaganda treatise.

    A debate concerning whether the taxpayers should be on the hook for this sick woman's fetish is certainly reasonable. A debate on the sterilization of the mentally ill is as well. But  thinking your belief in fairies, witches, sky wizards and demons makes you capable of being part of either debate is hilarious and utterly wrong.

    The priests of the different religious sects ... dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight, and scowl on the fatal harbinger announcing the subdivision of the duperies on which they live.
    -- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Correa de Serra, April 11, 1820
    Electronic Texts of the collected works of Thomas Jefferson

    The biggest threat to America is not communism, it's moving America toward a fascist theocracy... -- Frank Zappa

    by NCrefugee on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 01:56:39 PM PST

  •  seems to me (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bustacap, Toon

    the religious right is very hypoctitical about reproduction. Let's see it's God's will if you get pregnant a mortal sin to interfere with medicine but hey If you can't have a zillion babies then it's okay to artificially fertilize yourself? How does this work God he likes him some reproductive  procedures and he will damn you for others? Pig ignorance both religiously and scientifically.  

    "And if my thought-dreams could be seen They'd probably put my head in a guillotine" Bob Dylan

    by shaharazade on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 02:35:49 PM PST

  •  debate population (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mijita, bustacap, Reepicheep, Bernie68, martydd

    That's the real issue: too many people. It's high time THAT was addressed, especially by religious leaders. If they truely believe mankind is the custodian of this planet then surely we need to discuss birth control and personal responsibility in family planning. It is no longer a moral choice to have a large family. One only needs to look at earths problems, nearly all induced by too many people: polution, scarce resources, energy issues and war are but a few.

  •  I would feel much better about the honesty (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of this diary if the diarist chose to engage here. Or chose to engage in any of their diaries.

  •  60 yr old sick Canadian woman just had twins (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Reepicheep, Bernie68, Lujane

    She could not get IVF done in Canada because the cut off is 50 years, so she went to India. Then returned to Canada and just had twins. She is diabetic with heart problems and last month she was bleeding and had to have her uterus removed. She is in intensive care as well as the twin boys.

    She was originally pregnant with triplets but doctors intervened for health reasons and removed one embryo.

    Somewhat of a strain on the healthcare system isn't she?

    This above all: to thine own self be true...-WS

    by Agathena on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 02:53:26 PM PST

  •  Here's a good pregnancy ethics one. (0+ / 0-)

    Lately I've been in contact with a 16 year old umarried mother of a baby who is, just guessing, 18 months old. That means she was 14 when she got pregnant.

    She is not good at mothering. She ignores the baby if she is occupied with something else. She lets him toddle around, unsupervised, getting into anything and everything he is curious about. He gets on tables. He crawls up steps. She handles him roughly and speaks to him as though he could understand her. There is almost none of the usual cooing baby-talk you usually see with parents. She smacks his bottom when he "misbehaves." She has unrealistic expectations of the baby's understanding, and of his ability to sit still and be quiet. In other words, she has no business parenting that baby at all.

    And I'm pissed. I want to know what her parents were doing. Did they talk to her at all about sex and birth control? How, at fourteen, was she so unsupervised and allowed to go out alone on dates, or be alone with this boyfriend? Why did she think so badly about herself that she engaged in such risk-taking? Why did she bring that baby to term? Why didn't she put it up for adoption? What advice was she given? Was it from some celibate male priest?

    This baby is already messed up. If he doesn't have an attachment disorder yet, he's going to get one. The emotional neglect is going to take its toll, and every teacher and classmate will have to deal with this hurting kid.

    I don't know any details beyond what I've told you. I don't know her religion, I don't know if she had consenual sex or if someone raped her or manipulated her. All I know is what I've seen: a kid, barely a teenager, still growing into her own body and self, doing a lousy job mothering a baby.

    "YOPP!" --Horton Hears a Who

    by Reepicheep on Thu Feb 05, 2009 at 05:06:01 PM PST

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