Friday, January 30, 2009

Behind the Eight Ball

As the media wax rhapsodic about the recent live birth of octuplets, the medical profession is already sounding notes of caution – tut-tutting, as it were, that multiple births, as fun and picturesque as they are, can also be a source of considerable trouble and expense. So we have the spectacle of the medical profession dividing itself into two camps – the “team of doctors” who officiated at the multiple birth, sweat still gleaming on their brows, holding a news conference like a crew of returning astronauts, while other medical professionals appear on TV and in print warning about things like delayed development and cerebral palsy. Plus, it turns out that the mother of the 8 already had 6 other children! And she lives with her parents, with no mention of a husband (in which case, who... oh, never mind). Is this, then, simply an extreme case of “hoarding”, like these women who have three hundred cats? Because if it is, the medical profession only has itself to blame. You can't pave the way to multiple births as an everyday event then gripe when some neurotic takes advantage of it to repopulate a small town single-handedly. And, of course, the pro-life people have to take the mother's side because “embryo reduction” is just another name for abortion. So everyone is baffled by this – and of course the ZPG people and liberals in general have to be having conniptions. (Would you want to be in the same room as Hillary Clinton when a news story about this comes on? I know I wouldn't.) And here's a telling quote: “Dr. James Grifo, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the NYU School of Medicine, added: 'I don't think it's our job to tell them how many babies they're allowed to have. I am not a policeman for reproduction in the United States. My role is to educate patients.'” Yeah – and most of that “education” consists of abortion counseling, which is just fine with the establishment. But what happens when people blatantly defy all those “educational” efforts? It coverts more liberals to China's one child policy than bombing a wedding party in Afghanistan creates terrorists.

Some more quotes:

o “The birth of the octuplets already has raised eyebrows, with fertility and reproductive experts saying that such high-risk pregnancies should be avoided.”

o "'When we see something like this in the general fertility world, it gives us the heebie-jeebies,' Michael Tucker, an Atlanta-based clinical embryologist and leading researcher in fertility treatments, told the Los Angeles Times. 'If a medical practitioner had anything to do with it, there's some degree of inappropriate medical therapy there,' the Times quoted him as saying.” (Nothing "inappropriate" about partial-birth abortion, though!)

o “Asked by a reporter whether medical ethics may have been breached and whether fertility assistance was provided to a mother who already had multiple children, (one of the attending doctors) replied: 'That's still a private, personal question.'”

o “Doctors say they advise against higher-order births, but acknowledge the decision is not theirs to make.”

o "'Who am I to say that six is the limit?' said Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, medical director of Fertility Institutes, which has clinics in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York City. 'There are people who like to have big families.'”

There are many layers of irony and hypocrisy here. The shibboleth of “privacy” is raised, which is precisely the same argument that drove the outcome of Roe v. Wade. Then, of course, medical personnel would never -- heavens no! -- attempt to impose their point of view or their value system on their patients – even though they fight like demons against holistic medicine and alternative therapies, and support monopolistic practices when it comes to health insurance. And as for big families – they are discriminated against in every possible way in this society. But the public attitude of the medical profession is as fair as unbiased as can be.

But aside from all these irritations, the main point is that, as misguided as this woman might have been, she was at least perfectly free to have 8 children at once – or 10, or 20, if she was up to the task. That in itself is a good thing when one compares with China. But it must also be said that many of the forms of fertility therapy – and it is still a deep, dark secret whether that was involved in this case, but the odds are overwhelming that it was – go directly against the teachings of the Catholic Church. So when people sow the wind, they reap a whirlwind – in this case 8 new beings who may require a lifetime of special care. And of course they are all God's creatures, and now that they're here they deserve the same respect and consideration as any of the rest of us – but their very existence can, in some sense, be traced to an error, and very likely a moral failing as well. But the Technological Imperative (“What can be done will be done”) is obviously very much in play here – and the medical profession, that makes pushing the envelope on these issues into an everyday mission, can't complain when it seems to backfire. Otherwise they wind up looking like Dr. Frankenstein asking the angry peasants why they don't like his monster.

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