Almost Shocking

Eight Is More Than Enough

How charming that TV series was: eight rambunctious kids, along with the permanently bewildered Dick van Patten as dad and the patiently bemused Betty Buckley as mom. It was a hurly burly funhouse that usually ended in a group hug. And now there's another family romp, the feel-good reality series, John and Kate Plus 8.

Eight Is Enough

'Eight Is Enough' Courtesy ABC Archives hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy ABC Archives

I'm guessing reality is going to be a little different in the home of the Los Angeles mother who recently gave birth to octuplets. There aren't any names yet, just the letters A through H.

And who knows when they'll be home. They're all premature, and are therefore receiving intensive care. Preemies are also prone to development delays and permanent mental or physical disabilities, such as cerebral palsy.

And then there's the cost: it took 46 medical personnel to deliver the babies. Their hospital stay could cost millions of dollars.

Were the mother's doctors acting unethically by allowing this risky pregnancy (both for the mother and the babies) to continue without what's called "selective reduction" of the embryos? Could they have done anything differently, or is it ultimately the parents' sole decision? Given the enormous costs involved and, more importantly, the risks to the babies' long-term health, should the parents have been allowed to carry all those babies to term? Who's to tell them no?

Here's what University of Pennsylvania medical ethicist Arthur Caplan said on the show today: Someone should have told them no. Physicians have a moral responsibility to strongly advise their patients that having mega-multiples is not in the best interests of anyone. (Hear the whole interview here.)

And if these babies were the result of in vitro fertilization — where the embryos are fertilized outside the womb and then implanted, as opposed to injecting the mom with drugs to stimulate egg production — Caplan says the doctor should be sued for malpractice.

Comments from you, please. Maybe you've had fertility treatments and had to wrestle with "selective reduction" of embryos. Maybe you didn't wrestle at all with that question. Or maybe you just have an opinion on this story you want to share.

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