Saturday, January 31, 2009

Octuplets story takes a dark turn

CBS News has reported that the family of the California octuplets had abandoned a home and filed for bankruptcy a year-and-a-half ago.

It is also widely being reported that the mother of the octuplets, whose identity hasn't been revealed, already had six children, between about two and seven years old.

The bankrupt woman, who is also apparently homeless, now has 14 children under eight years old.

The birth of the octuplets was not planned, but it also was not an accident. According to reports, she had eight embryos implanted in her womb.

Although it's tempting to judge this woman, we should resist. We don't know the facts yet, and it's likely we will learn more in the coming days.

But she was evidently in the care of a fertility specialist. If you're tempted to judge that specialist, go ahead--give in. It's even clearer now than it was when I first posted on this story: This is a case, if not of malpractice, than of a serious error in medical judgment.

Consider the future for these children. They weighed about one to three pounds each. According to a fact sheet from the March of Dimes, babies weighing less than 2 pounds, 3 ounces will "require treatment with oxygen, surfactant and mechanical assistance to help them breathe" and because they are too young to suck, they must be fed intravenously. It continues: "About 25 percent of these very premature babies develop serious lasting disabilities, and up to half may have milder problems, such as learning and behavioral problems."

They are also at risk for respiratory distress, bleeding in the brain, heart failure, severe intestinal disease, blindness, anemia, and infections.

The birth, first reported as a medical miracle, is, in truth, a tragedy.

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