Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Missing Person: The octuplets' father

When we think about the Suleman octuplets, we might catch ourselves saying that they don't have a father. She's a single mother, right?

We all understand that children can't be conceived without sperm, so, yes, in a technical sense, they have a father, or fathers.

But perhaps there's more to it than that. Adopted children often become very curious about their biological parents, and sometimes go looking for them.

I can't speak from personal experience, but it seems that even if a father is represented only by an anonymously donated sperm, the notion of father means something important to us. An obvious point, of course, is that the sperm is not simply a trigger for conception; it brings with it a huge, vitally important genetic inheritance.

So even that anonymous sperm donor has a huge influence on a child. Most of us want to know who we are, where we came from, and so on. Our fathers, even if unknown and anonymous, are a large part of the answer to those questions.

In the case of the Suleman octuplets, the story may be more compicated than an anonymous donor. Angela Suleman, Nadya Suleman's mother, told the Associated Press that all 16 of Nadya's children came from the same sperm donor, but declined to identify him.

The AP found a David Solomon listed as the father on the birth certificates of the four oldest children.

Will the children someday want to know who their father is? Will they be angry with their mother for creating a situation in which they don't know him? She's had 16 children who might never know their father, or fathers. And that might not matter. Or it might.


  1. http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/vp/29096758#29096758

    The babies father is a known 'donor'. Begs the question, is just knowing a name/identity enough?

  2. This is a perfect example of pro-choice, pro-life, pro-feminism, pro-rights and pro-selfishness gone amok. It is the American extreme in every way. All roads lead back to the benefits of self sacrifice, acceptance and traditional (male/female) marriage.

  3. http://www.ottawacitizen.com/Health/Examining+society+role/1275699/story.html

    Examining society's role

    Adoption gives us a model for the appropriate use of new reproductive technology

    Ottawa Citizen
    By Margaret Somerville, Citizen Special
    February 11, 2009

    Two cases -- one in California, the other in Calgary -- involving the use of new reproductive technologies have been the focus of intense media attention in recent days.

    Nadya Suleman, a 33-year-old Californian single mother, just gave birth to octuplets. She already had six children aged seven years or under and says all 14 children were conceived through in-vitro fertilization with sperm donated by a friend. The octuplets were delivered prematurely by Caesarian section and will likely spend several weeks in a neo-natal intensive care unit, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Ranjit Hayer, a 60-year-old Calgary married woman, just gave birth to twin boys conceived from donated ova and her husband's sperm. She had been trying for decades, including using reproductive technologies, to have a child, but until now had been unsuccessful. Canadian physicians refused her access to IVF because of her age, so she underwent this procedure in India and returned to Canada for care during her pregnancy and giving birth to premature twin boys. Both required special care -- one neo-natal intensive care -- and serious medical complications ensued for Ms. Hayer.

    So what ethical questions do these situations raise? And what insights or lessons might they provide?

    First, we need to distinguish between natural conception and conception where there is reliance on technology. It is one matter, ethically, not to interfere with a person's decisions regarding conceiving a child when that is a purely personal and private decision as it is with natural conception; it's quite another when society provides its resources to facilitate that outcome and the institution of medicine is involved.

    With rare exceptions, such as the prohibition on incest or under-age sexual relations, when natural conception unassisted by technology is involved, personal autonomy and personal and family privacy must be given priority. In short, as Pierre Trudeau famously said, "The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation."

    When technology is involved in conceiving a child, we are, however, not in the bedrooms of the nation, but the laboratories, hospitals and clinics of the nation. And the creation of new human life is not an outcome of private love-making, but of actions undertaken by health-care professionals using research and facilities paid for with taxpayers' money. That means the state has ethical obligations, in particular, to ensure the protection and wellbeing of the future children who will result from those activities.

    Read full article here: