There is such a thing as too many children. Seriously. I say this after reading the news today that the California woman, who gave birth to octuplets this week, already has six children. According to doctors, having octuplets naturally is not possible, so it was obvious to most doctors the woman had to have had fertility treatments. As a doctor said on BBC World this morning, this brings up medical ethics issues, as it’s not as though the woman really needed more kids.
To understand why this is an issue, not only for the 33 year old mother, but also for society as a whole look at the following issues.
Can Someone With 14 Children Adequately Take Care of Them? It’s highly unlikely that any one family can take care of 14 children properly in today’s society. Especially in California, where the woman lives, everything is so expensive that bringing up one child in California will cost at least 20% more than anywhere else. Imagine, therefore, bringing up 14 children there. Also, from what news reports say, this woman is single and lives with her parents so it doesn’t look like she has a husband who is going to work to help support the children. This burden is falling on her father, the octuplets’ grandfather, who is soon going to be returning to Iraq as a contractor. Iraq isn’t known as one of the world’s safest countries so if he, god-forbid, was to get killed, who would take care of the babies then? The California tax payer is more than likely the answer.
Not only do children require money to be taken care of properly, they also require attention. Hopefully this mother and her family will be able to give all her 14 children the attention they need but as a friend of mine who has three children said once, “I feel sorry for the third one. I barely have enough energy to give the other two the attention they need”.
According to an article by the Los Angeles Times, the family of the octuplets have already had financial problems including a bankruptcy, tax liens and a foreclosure.
Octuplets are Born With Higher Chances of Lifelong Health Issues – It’s very rare that all eight children in an octuplet birth will survive. If they do, most of them will have health issues as they get older. This again not only increases the cost to the family, but more than likely to the taxpayers as well as they will probably be footing the bill if she has to go to a public hospital to get medical care. The octuplets were born nine weeks premature, so they’re already likely to have serious health issues. As of Thursday, only six of the eight children were breathing on their own, and only five of them were feeding. On Friday, seven of the eight children were breathing on their own. But, because having to be aided in breathing causes additional lung problems, the children who had to be helped are likely to have lifelong health issues. Will they be able to pay for those health issues for the rest of their lives, or will the taxpayer be paying for part of it when those kids reach the age of thirty?
Medical Ethics Issues – In a world that is already over-populated, why would anyone think that choosing to have 14 children is acceptable? Sure, if you get pregnant the natural way, you have a little less choice about the matter, but this woman chose to actively seek fertility treatments. As many women have multiple births from fertility treatments, she knew the risks of having more than one child, especially as doctors at Kaiser Permanente said they told her the risks and gave her the option of aborting one or more of the babies to give the other babies more of a chance at life. The mother, however, refused.
The Los Angeles Times published an article about the octuplets and the fertility treatments, and quoted one doctor . “I cannot see circumstances where any reasonable physician would transfer eight embryos into a woman under the age of 35 under any circumstance,” said Arthur Wisot, a fertility doctor in Redondo Beach. “I cannot imagine that any of the mainstream practices in the Los Angeles area were involved in this. I would guess – and it’s a pure guess – that she either went out of the country or went to a practice that flies below the radar.”
Cost to Society – Overall, it’s very unlikely that someone with this many children will be able to take care of them financially for the next 18 to 22 years. At some point down the road, she or her family is likely to accept some form of government assistance (read, taxpayers’ assistance) that the rest of us will be paying for. Either that or wealthy individuals will come forward to help her pay to take care of the octuplets. Either way, she and her family probably won’t be the ones taking 100% responsibility for them. Is that fair? Should society have to take on the burden of taking care of more children a family cannot take care of, especially when the mother chose to have that many children? Sure, if she and her family are able to one hundred percent take care of these children, then more power to them. It’s highly unlikely though.
Overall, I can see why China has a one child policy. An overpopulated society has many more problems and, as China shows, most of its citizens end up living in poverty as there just aren’t enough resources for everybody. An overpopulated planet will face the same problems so, in my opinion, it’s the height of irresponsibility for this woman to actively choose to have octuplets. You may not agree.
Kimi Yoshino and Jessica Garrison, Family in octuplets case had financial woes, Los Angeles Times
The Nation, Thailand California Woman Gives Birth to Octuplets