Tuesday night at 10:00, NBC's Dateline will air a special report on Nadya Suleman, the single mother of octuplets who, already, has six other children. Her story raises important ethical questions about fertility clinics, a relatively unregulated industry according to a local professor of medical ethics.
Professor Robert Olick teaches bio-ethics at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. Olick says the first ethical consideration for a fertility clinic should be the health of the mother and her fetuses. "This should be done with the informed consent of the woman with respect to the procedure itself, with respect to the implantation, as well as the number of implantations to be done."
The California fertility clinic implanted Nadya Suleman with six embryos, two of which became twins. Professor Olick says most clinics would have implanted only two in a woman her age, but he says that's a self imposed industry guideline. He says fertility clinics are relatively unregulated. "Obviously, physicians need to be licensed and qualified to to this procedure. Laboratories and doctors offices are regulated, but in terms of the choices women make and specifically the number of embryo implantations, there aren't any laws and binding rules."
There's also the question of social responsibilty. Should a single mother, with six kids and limited income, be assisted by a fertility clinic to have even more children? Olick says, "I don't know that we want government telling people how many children they should have, but certainly it's something a physician and others involved in the process ought to consider".
For her part, Nadya Suleman told Dateline she was fixated on having children and said her fertility doctor did nothing wrong.
Contacted by phone, Doctor Robert Kiltz,who heads the Central New York Fertility Center in Syracuse,said he hopes the Dateline special will leave a positive impression about how fertility clinics help parents have children. Kiltz said "every person has a right to have children." He added: "this is a free country and this is one of the benefits."
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