Form over function

I know, I know. I’ve been less than inspired lately, weighted down with the cares of the world. Yearning to breathe free, and all that. Ho-hum, hee-haw. Pass the chianti.

So of course the solution is to read CNN. Because if your morning cuppa doesn’t get you fired up, there’s always global catastrophe to inspire. And depress.

Wading through the stories about the Korean woman failing her driver’s test 700 times and the 10-year-old receiving porn on his birthday cell phone, I came upon this opinion piece by a bioethics doctor, regarding the recent controversial octuplet birth in California.

And yes, it’s taken me this long to come up with some cogent thoughts on the subject. :}  (that’s an embarrassed smile).

The position of this madsmartscientist is that fertility doctors are going to have to start thinking about the potential quality of life of IVF babies, making judgments about said quality based on their perceptions of the couple, and possibly denying IVF treatment to parents when the risks outweigh the benefits. You know, if the CON side of the sheet ends up longer than the PRO.

On the surface, this sounds kind, empathetic- MDs thinking long and hard about bringing life into the world. My problems (numerous though they may be in real life- ehem) begin with the invasion of privacy inherent in these actions and end with a worldview I think untenable. Or, in English- this is just a really bad idea. Here’s why:

1. Making value judgments about another person’s ability to parent well can be at best erroneous and at worst prejudicial. How do we measure “quality of life”? Tax returns? Home visits? The labels on their clothes?

2. What course in medical school will these doctors take to accurately assess patients’ ability to be a good parent? How can we trust that they will make the right decision? What if they’re wrong? (Think of the lawsuits!)

3. All of Dr. Murray’s opinion holds forth a worldview that stresses functionality, a common argument in pro-choice, pro-euthanasia circles. In other words- if the child is born with developmental problems, wouldn’t that child be better off dead? If the woman has been in a coma for x amount of time, shouldn’t we just shut her off?

I know- hard stuff. It’s easy to say that Nadya Suleman’s actions were irresponsible, but less easy to think about the consequences of a worldview akin to Dr. Murray’s. If, as Mr. Prez and the Dems hope, we become a nation of choice, it’s interesting to think about just who’d be controlling those choices.


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17 Responses to Form over function

  1. Emily says:

    it is not their place to make those calls. but it is also not their place to transfer 8 embryos.

  2. evenshine says:

    E- who decides? And who decides whose “place” it is to decide?

  3. Emily says:

    medically, 8 embryos is irresponsible. as to who decides who can be a parent, i guess that partly depends on whether you believe in God… but, social workers have long made those calls about whether someone can handle parenting…

  4. ck says:

    The whole thing baffles me.

    Ethics, medicine and media aside – I can’t get past the idea of having 14 kids. That’s double the fourth prime number. More than half of the alphabet. And almost as many years as it’s been since I last roamed the halls of high school.

    How do you even get to know them all?

    Two is definitely more my style…

  5. evenshine says:

    Emily- I wasn’t presupposing a belief in God, I was actually trying to work it out a-theistically. If we push for reproductive rights, and legislate a woman’s choice to terminate her own child, then who is to say how many is irresponsible, and how many is not? How come abortion is a protected right, but the choice to have 8 kids is (soon to be) not?

    CK- I hear ya. I have a hard enough time finding socks for two kids. I can’t imagine getting 14 out the door in the morning. Waffles for 14…even a car for that many. Carseats…

  6. Emily says:

    love this discussion

    i think if she naturally conceives 8 kids, it is up to her. but, medically, it is unwise to do, so if the embryos are being put in there, the doctors should be making sounder choices.

    now, i think she is making an unethical choice to have all those kids, but it is not for me to push my ethics on her.

  7. KathyB! says:

    It’s like Obama limiting the pay of execs of companies receiving bailout money. I agree with the concept, but it’s a slippery slope when anyone starts tampering with freedoms of choice or the free market economy. I should probably elaborate on that statement, but I’m still too grumpy about my blog. I have a hard time letting things go too…

  8. Emily says:

    except with the execs, those companies are free to take their chances with the free market economy if they want to instead of the bailout money…

  9. KathyB! says:

    Yes, but where do you draw the line? The government dictates salary…and then marketing strategy… It’s either market driven or it’s not. Emily, I actually agree with you but there can never be an exception, it would seem. It sets precedent and then, well, it’s open season.

  10. evenshine says:

    Interesting stuff.

    “it is not for me to push my ethics on her.”- of course, and that’s how a great many people might articulate it. But it is, unfortunately, the government’s place, in the case of reproductive rights, to legislate the ethics here.

    And, like KathyB! says, where does it stop? I fear that the end result are steps like China has taken with the one-child policy, enforced with involuntary sterilization, in a communist regime.

    Sure, the companies can “take their chances”- just like women can take their chances in Mexico and Thailand, in unregulated clinics. But the issue is the freedoms lost- the very freedom to choose one’s reproductive fate that pro-choice groups fight for.

  11. evenshine says:

    UPDATE: Just saw this on Yahoo news.

    To get some of the mom’s perspective.

  12. “there’s always global catastrophe to inspire. And depress.” — well said! I’m always torn between wanting to know what’s going on and feeling overwhelmed by all the dark events.

  13. faemom says:

    This case totally has me switched around. I agree with KathyB! that this could easily be a slippery slope. And I wonder why should would get pregnant over and over when she was in so much backpain. All of us mothers know how much pain pregnancy is. I think before her last pregnancy she should have been checked by a psychologist. I think that the fertility company did go about it wrong as I understand it because they do not do so many fertilizations with a woman so young and healthy. How does one decide how many kids can someone actually have? Though I heard the dr from the first set in octoplets talk about how very dangerous it is to have so many babies and that if she had known there were so many emdryos she would have counceled the parents on liminating some of them for the good of the mother and the other children. But there is the slippery slope again and why the Catholic Church begs out of the discussion.

  14. myra36 says:

    mmmm, the decision to have children in the first place should not be taken lightly. yes, a woman has the right to do whatever to her body. but it’s not just about her. what quality of life can these children be expected to have? i have one child and he takes up almost all of my time. fourteen? children need not only food, clothing, and shelter but they also need time and attention. talk about spreading yourself thin. who’s talking about their rights?

    another problem i have is that she took fertility treatments even though she is NOT INFERTILE. just because the technology is there doesn’t give you the right to abuse it in order to fill some emotional hole or become famous.

    i do think she does love her kids (in her way). but i also believe that her choices are irresponsible and misguided.

    just my two cents.

  15. Evenshine says:

    myra- I agree with a great deal of what you said. I have two and am spread as thin as I’d like to be (for now).

    The ironic thing (and the hypocritical thing, in my view) is that we weren’t responding like this to John&Kate+8 or the Duggars. We think they’re kooky, we give them Pampers for life and TV shows, but to the lady who does the same thing solo, we are up in arms.

    If we REALLY support a woman’s right to “choose”, then we have to support a woman’s right to choose 14.

    Thanks for the 2 cents- more like $2!

  16. faemom says:

    (I knew I should never logged on just to “look”)
    Evenshine, you make a great point! I’ve been thinking the same thing. Why am I so weird about this family versus Jon & Kate? But I don’t like the Duggars. They have 18 kids. But my problem with them and this woman is there seemed to be little forethought in how to take care of that many kids. THe Duggars lived in a three bedroom home with 16 or 17 kids. That was just TOO small of a place. But at least they have a steady income. This woman hasn’t worked in years. So if she had a steady job with a nice big house, I don’t think we would have as much issue as we do now. Sure, we would shake our heads at a woman without a partner bringing up ALL those kids, but we would get over it as she showed us how she can take care of them. Right now, we’re talking about the state fitting the bill. So people who are against universal health care say see look at what will happen when we give health care to everyone. Those who are for healthcare and those who are for IVF are saying, woman, you’re screwing us all up. Um, I hope it’s ok I’m saying this much and not irritating the hell out of you. 🙂

  17. evenshine says:

    Fae- not at all! I enjoy conversation. A nice side effect of blogging is that you get to share ideas with others. I agree that financial considerations should have been paramount in this woman’s decision. It should be interesting to see if the media lets it go- right now they’re still on the “irresponsible mom” trip.

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