Reproductive Ethics

May 15, 2009 • Volume 19, Issue 19
Should fertility medicine be regulated more tightly?
By Marcia Clemmitt


Nadya Suleman (AFP/Getty Images/Robyn Beck)
Nadya Suleman, a single mother from Southern California, was quickly dubbed “Octomom” after giving birth to octuplets in January. In apparent violation of accepted medical practice, a physician implanted at least six embryos in Suleman during in vitro fertilization (IVF). (AFP/Getty Images/Robyn Beck)

Nadya Suleman, an unemployed, 33-year-old, single mother from Southern California, felt her six children weren't enough. Last January, after a fertility doctor implanted six embryos she had frozen earlier, Suleman gave birth to octuplets — and was quickly dubbed “Octomom.” Many fertility experts were shocked that a doctor would depart so far from medical guidelines — which recommend implantation of only one, or at most two, embryos for a woman of Suleman's relatively young age. Although multiple births often do result from in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other assisted-reproduction technologies, the number of multiples has dropped over the past few years, they point out. Other analysts note, however, that government statistics show a large percentage of clinics frequently ignore the guidelines on embryo implantation. In response, lawmakers in several states have introduced proposals to increase regulation of fertility clinics.

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