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The Ethics of Infertility
July 2, 2007 2:44 AM   Subscribe

The ethics of infertility: After taking fertility drug Clomid, Ryan and Brianna Morrison conceived sextuplets. Their religious beliefs steered them away from undergoing a selective reduction procedure in favor of bringing all six fetuses to term. Four of their newborns have died; the remaining two are in critical condition. This mother of multiples says that while she's grateful that insurance and Medicaid covered her million-dollar hospital bill, her "quest to have a family resulted in a significant drain on society's resources."
posted by lalex (136 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
wow, what a hard decision to have to make.
posted by lastobelus at 2:56 AM on July 2, 2007


Adoption?
posted by maxwelton at 2:58 AM on July 2, 2007


Yes, it's a hard decision: individual cribs, or a whelping box?
posted by fandango_matt at 3:15 AM on July 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


I love it when Jesus invents new pharmaceuticals. He looks so sexy in a lab coat.
posted by chuckdarwin at 3:22 AM on July 2, 2007


hello.
posted by lastobelus at 3:27 AM on July 2, 2007


uh...not sure what happened there. I typed:

hello. the decision of whether to undergo a selective reduction. But maybe it's not a tough decision if you believe all the tough decisions were already made by a bunch of sheep farmers 3200 years ago.

...but only hello was posted. On back button, the whole post was in the input box. Strange.
posted by lastobelus at 3:29 AM on July 2, 2007


.
.
.
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posted by fandango_matt at 3:39 AM on July 2, 2007


wait, its OK by Jesus to make babies from test tubes...but not OK to choose how many of those test tube babies become viable fetuses?

wtf, Jesus sucks at science.
posted by T.D. Strange at 3:52 AM on July 2, 2007 [12 favorites]


Yeah, that's the essential problem with many of these people isn't it? They're perfectly happy to avail themselves of weird and ungodly science and its advice when it suits them, but will fight tooth and nail for their beliefs when it doesn't. Even if that means the almost certain death of real babies (rather than tadpole-sized fetuses).
posted by rhymer at 4:04 AM on July 2, 2007 [4 favorites]


So,

Selective reduction isn't the will of God

but fertility drugs are?

There is a part of me, a very cruel and bitter part, that would love to ask these people if they ever thought that maybe, just maybe their Magic Sky Wizard wants them to be infertile after all. Shoot, maybe the Sky Wizard wants them to raise some Sudanese orphans or something.

But no. Nooooooooooooooooo.

We're just like puppies. We've gotta have our own litter once in our lives or else we start pissing on the carpet. We've got to perpetuate our broken DNA because it's just not the same when the kid you raise doesn't share 50% of your alleles. Oh, surely you understand that six billion angry, ignorant apes just isn't enough.

We need more of us! MORE! Why, anything else would be anti-Life.

Yes, yes, thats it! You know when the deer in Yellowstone start fucking like crazy? And then they have all these cute little deer kids? And then winter comes and they all agonizingly starve to death? Yeah, can't you just feel the pure, unadulterated LIFE?!?! No culture of death there. No siree.

*pukes*
posted by Avenger at 4:04 AM on July 2, 2007 [27 favorites]


Their religious beliefs steered them away from undergoing a selective reduction procedure in favor of bringing all six fetuses to term. Four of their newborns have died; the remaining two are in critical condition.

You know, I'm guessing it's probably the wrong thing to so given they've dealing with dead children and all that, but... what assholes.

Look, if you need fertility drugs because you really want a kid and can't afford IVF, fine. But don't suddenly pretend a huge mistake like this is perfectly okay. It would really be nice if one of the religious leaders or friends pointed out to them that while you can do whatever you want with your body, if you're really that religious then you'd know if Jesus actually wanted you to have a litter, he would have made you able to do so.

Religious families who take fertility drugs and then say their "faith" will guide them through the complicated risk and potential damage they've selfishly inflicted on their own unborn children are basically pulling a twofer- they're abusing the benefits of science and going against what Christians would perceive as "God's plan." Meanwhile... dead babies abound! Good job, guys!
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:32 AM on July 2, 2007 [7 favorites]


Or, on preview, what Avenger and rhymer said.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:32 AM on July 2, 2007


I have a number of friends who have undergone IVF. Without exception, the maximum number of embryos that the doctor would implant at any one time was two. Two. Not six. Not four. Two.

There is a certain logic to me that a couple who has tried so hard to have a child would be unwilling to then turn around and abort what could be a healthy child. That's why, I think, we have to put some responsibility on the doctors who implant four, six, or eight embryos. Does this mean that the parents might need to go through more cycles than just one? That it might cost them more upfront? Yes, it does. But it also means that when the embryos do "take", there is a much greater likelihood of the babies actually coming to term and being born healthy.
posted by anastasiav at 4:35 AM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Fetus>Baby>Child>Adult>Non-Christian
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:48 AM on July 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


I know a couple. They are very religious. I won't say what religion, but it's one that encourages bringing lots of people into the flock. They are in their mid-60s, this is the second marriage for both, and they each have grown children from their previous marriages. They wanted to have kids again, with each other, but because of their advanced age they were forced to undergo fertility treatments. They ended up having twin daughters who are now four.

Regardless of their choices and methods, all I can think is how unfair it will be to those girls to grow up as teenagers with grandparents for parents.
posted by Brittanie at 4:58 AM on July 2, 2007


That's why, I think, we have to put some responsibility on the doctors who implant four, six, or eight embryos.

It's important to note that they didn't have IVF; this is directly a result of using fertility drugs. The wife didn't have eggs implanted in her. She produced an excess that were multiple-fertilized and then refused to have some of them eliminated, requiring all six babies to be born prematurely.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:00 AM on July 2, 2007


I agree with anastasiav. And I'm not religious at all, but I would have a huge problem with having to decide which of my six babies to kill. I think most people would. So I don't think I can blame this on their religious beliefs. People have a way of making their religious beliefs accord with whatever they really want to do.
posted by orange swan at 5:00 AM on July 2, 2007


Can't they do ultrasounds of the ovaries to get an idea of how many follicles are ripened (is that the right word?)? I thought they did that routinely as a preparation for egg-harvesting procedures to make sure a good number were ready to pop. Shouldn't such a thing be required when using such a drug? If you've got more than three follicles, abstain for that cycle and try a lower dose of the drug.

At the *very* least people using this drug should be strongly cautioned to try a very very low dose until they determine the smallest amount that will make them ovulate.

Also I don't think the family specifically makes the choice of which to abort - "this one doctor, but not that one". I think the doctor takes a look at which seem to be more likely to survive (better placed, larger) and that sort of thing. But I could be wrong.

I'm with those who say Jesus was telling these people to adopt, but they didn't listen.
posted by marble at 5:19 AM on July 2, 2007


Just adopt one. Do someone a great big favour.

It was certainly a shitful experience for me to get mine.
posted by Wolof at 5:19 AM on July 2, 2007


heh, heh, heh
posted by Wolof at 5:20 AM on July 2, 2007


I heard a stat somewhere claiming that for many infertile or barely fertile couples, the odds of conceiving with fertility drugs was just about equal to the odds of conceiving without them.

My worry is twofold: (a) the cost (both monetary and psychological) imposed on the would-be parents by the process seems to be pretty damn excessive, and (b) the biology of the thing. To explain, it's pretty simple: When two people can't conceive together, it is usually because there is something genetic that just does not jive between them. Perhaps the MHC is too similar. Perhaps there are some early breakdowns in development due to some genetic issues. Either way, I worry that by artificially overcoming these problems for the sake of the parent's desire to have a kid, we're dooming an entire generation of children to a lifetime of unforeseen genetic issues. For all we know, we're potentially creating a generation incapable of conceiving naturally.

When your junk doesn't work together, there's usually a damn good reason. Just because we can force it to work doesn't mean we should. As my wife insists, there are too many perfectly good kids out there in need of homes and parents for our society to continue doing stupid, expensive medical treatments to create more kids.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:37 AM on July 2, 2007


Having been through some of this personally and with family members, I can tell you it just ain't that simple. Really. It's easy to say "Just do this" or "You should have done that" until you are right there. I was surprised myself. I thought I had it all figured out, but I didn't. Personally, I want to live in a society that allows the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and the infertile to have children. If it costs a bit more for those things to happen, I'll gladly pay. Do I care what it costs, sure. But it would have to be a lot for me to say no.
posted by MarshallPoe at 5:41 AM on July 2, 2007


They are in their mid-60s, this is the second marriage for both, and they each have grown children from their previous marriages. They wanted to have kids again, with each other, but because of their advanced age they were forced to undergo fertility treatments. They ended up having twin daughters who are now four.

I am not saying these people are out and out awful. But they are certainly selfish, vain and egotistical. However, I'm sure they've convinced themselves that whatever claptrap they believe tells them otherwise (and that anyone who disagrees with them will burn). Religion's kind of perfect in that sense. I wish I was religious.
posted by rhymer at 5:48 AM on July 2, 2007


Man, that's a bucketload of Jesus-hating...

This couple chose to use fertility drugs. Was that wrong? Why? Is it only wrong for Christians to use fertility drugs?

This couple chose to attempt to bring 6 fetuses to life. Was that wrong? Why? Is it only wrong for Christians to carry 6 fetuses?

The thing is, we all need to make difficult decisions every day. These are decisions that involve the science of ethics: what is the right thing to do. What principles of ethics do you use?

I agree that as humans we are imperfect. It's oh-so-easy to justify any action with religion, to do unethical things under the banner of righteousness. But you don't have to be religious to be righteous. And the decisions the Morrisons made may indeed be the same decisions made by a non-religious person.

Let's remove religion from the equation and look at the face value of this issue: fertility drugs and selective reduction. It certainly seems that the fertility drugs are the cause of the multiple fetuses, so they are the root of the problem. From an ethical standpoint, it seems theres more on the harm side of the page. I don't like 'em.
posted by joecacti at 6:05 AM on July 2, 2007 [4 favorites]


Hello!
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:10 AM on July 2, 2007


Ah, this sucks for everyone. I hope the remaining two sprogs turn out okay.

Yeah, that's the essential problem with many of these people isn't it? They're perfectly happy to avail themselves of weird and ungodly science and its advice when it suits them, but will fight tooth and nail for their beliefs when it doesn't.


I get what you’re saying, and the parents are certainly very irresponsible, but I think it's perfectly logical for religious people to think that science is great (which it is) and murdering babies (which they would consider aborting fetuses to be) is not-so-great. Hating science is quite rate, even amongst fundies; as for pro-life sentiments – even pesky Episcopalians veer a bit that way.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 6:18 AM on July 2, 2007


I honestly don't understand how you can use fertility drugs but say that the rest of the science involved to bring a better possible outcome wouldn't be what Jesus wanted. That is just bizarre. Where is the logic? Maybe Jesus wanted you to be infertile.

The reduction decision would be one of the most horrific, but perhaps not more horrific than losing 4 or even all six living babies. I've seen and lost a pregnancy (or more)and I have held a live baby and I'm speculating that the grief from losing a child outside your body would be much much greater that what I've felt after a miscarriage.

That said, my husband and I want a second child very much. However we've decided that it will either happen without fertility treatments or assistance or it won't happen. I also know that decision is much easier for us because this would be a second child and we already have a delightful and hilarious 5 year old.

For the record he's a Buddhist and I'm a Unitarian of the non christian variety.
posted by pywacket at 6:21 AM on July 2, 2007


wow, what a hard decision to have to make.

How is that a hard decision? A human womb isn't meant to hold six people, so you have to get rid of some if you want them to come out healthy. Not doing so is narcissistic and cruel, and frankly I don't think the government should pay for fertility treatments or excessive care during pregnancy for people who are not willing to do it. Alternatively, those people can implant one embryo at a time over 8 years then implanting 8 at a time or whatever.
posted by delmoi at 6:24 AM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Woo boy, this one is hard.

Having known too many parent-less children in my life, I am totally on the side of those who are saying "adopt an orphan, you selfish people." However, it becomes a lot more difficult when you actually try to put yourself in their shoes.

Having a child is just so fundamentally part of the human experience - and especially defining for women - that it is difficult to judge those who want to take part in this universal part of the human condition. Sure, maybe you were born with eggs lacking a certain protein necessary for implanting in the uterus; the way medicine is advancing, why should that genetic life sentence be the last word? I'll bet that a very large percentage of the population would still jump at the chance to conceive using medical assistance, even if they were vehemently pro-adoption beforehand. It suddenly becomes a different issue entirely when its your body and not some stranger's.

One confounding factor in this, I believe, is the concept in economics known as the "moral hazard." In some ways, the reason people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to conceive their own special snowflake is the same reason that 1/3 of the more than 2 TRILLION (that's 15% of our total GDP in the USA) that we spend on health care is spent on the last 6 months of life. Does this mean the system is broken, or are the costs just big because we value the results that much? Ask an infertile couple, or someone who's mother is dying from terminal cancer, and I'm sure they'll give you a earful.
posted by i less than three nsima at 6:24 AM on July 2, 2007


MarshallPoe wrote: I want to live in a society that allows the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and the infertile to have children.

So is infertility really an illness? Like blindness and deafness?

I'd be willing to entertain the idea if we lived in a Children-of-Men world, where the future of humanity was threatened by mass sterility ... but obviously thats not the case.

In fact, the exact opposite seems to be the case.

I can understand someone when they say "I'm blind but I want to see" or "I'm deaf but I want to hear". But, -- forgive me for sounding rude -- I honestly can't understand the mindset that says "My life is incomplete unless I can use my genetic material to make these little copies of myself."

Ah, who am I kidding? It's not even a mindset to begin with. It's an instinct. We've literally been bred to breed. Evolution demands breeding for survival. We've survived so far, but here we are. Rapidly consuming our irreplaceable natural resources, making the world unsuitable for all but cockroaches....

At this rate, we might just breed ourselves right out of existence.
posted by Avenger at 6:25 AM on July 2, 2007


Not a lot of respect for reproductive rights/one's right to choose in this thread so far. It's kind of dissappointing to see the Judgemental Ethics Patrol entering the fray from the pro-choice postion.
posted by klarck at 6:28 AM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


This couple chose to attempt to bring 6 fetuses to life. Was that wrong? Why? Is it only wrong for Christians to carry 6 fetuses?

Well who else does it? Obviously it would be wrong regardless.
posted by delmoi at 6:28 AM on July 2, 2007


Having a child is just so fundamentally part of the human experience - and especially defining for women - that it is difficult to judge those who want to take part in this universal part of the human condition.

See, poetry is apart of the human condition. I can write a poem and say "Hey, I'm apart of humanity. Aren't I special?" Same thing goes for sex, compassion, jealousy, sadness and so on.

Bringing more people into the world because I want to feel human doesn't strike me as being very ethical.
posted by Avenger at 6:35 AM on July 2, 2007


Joecacti: I didn't mean to make an LOLXTIANS post. I put that in about the Morrisons because it's true that their religious beliefs influenced their decision; but in the last essay I linked religion didn't play any part in the mother's decision to bring all hr triplets to term.

What's interesting to me about this that the people in these agonizing situations weren't faced with a typical pro-choice/pro-life situation...they were advised that their decision to carry all the babies to term would likely condemn some to death.
posted by lalex at 6:38 AM on July 2, 2007


The certainly a lot of Christian-bashing going on here, ironic considering how many hospitals and universities in the country were started by Christian groups.

Replace every instance of the word "christian" in this thread with "jew" or "muslim", and those comments would have been deleted and the commenters suspended or banned.

Onto the pont - it is perfectly legal for them to do all this, right? So what's the problem? The "significant drain on society's resources?" They aren't society's resources to being with. They are Medicaid resources intended to be used for public health. Here we have members of the public who needed it, again, what's the problem?

You know what else is a significant drain on "society's" resources? Drugs and alcohol. Go in to any urban ER on any night of the week and count how many people are there because of some immediate or long-term effect of drug or alcohol abuse. And this drain is far more pervasive than people giving birth to sextuplets.

You know who else is a significant drain on society's resources? Poor people. They are drunk, high, obese and violent out of proportion to their number. Should we bash poor people? Maybe if Christians can't have six babies, poor people shouldn't be able to have any babies! Then there'd be no poor people! The overprivileged white kids could finally capitalize on their advantage.

I am amazed that so many people who love the idea of national universal health care don't appreciate that to achieve it would require restrictions on what kinds of procedures you can have.

And furthermore, even with nationalized health care, there will still be private hospitals where the rich will get better care.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:39 AM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


"At the *very* least people using this drug should be strongly cautioned to try a very very low dose until they determine the smallest amount that will make them ovulate."

This is not how Clomid works. Also, take note of how low the rate of multiple fertilization is. The parents had very little reason to expect that they would fertilize so many eggs. Further, there have been successful sextuplet births, and there is no indication that the mother was otherwise unhealthy or that the pregnancy was otherwise problematic. This tragedy was, realistically, unforeseeable. Yes, the parents knew that they were taking a calculated risk. But the risk of this was extremely low. Blaming them for this is simply unjust. They are one of the victims in this tragedy.

In any case, I've found the tone of the comments in this thread to be particularly awful. This couple has just suffered an unbelievable loss. Perhaps it was by their own doing, but does that make it any less painful? (In fact, it likely makes it worse. As a father, trust me when I say that there is nothing, and I mean nothing, in our existence worse then knowing that you have harmed your own child. Knowing that your actions lead your child to die, would honestly be unbearable.) Is there trauma less real? Do they deserve less empathy because they hold religious beliefs different from yours?

Why don't you all get off your rhetorical high-horse for one second and just try to relate to them on a human level. The death of four, FOUR, newborns is not the proper occasion for railing against abstract evils.
posted by oddman at 6:43 AM on July 2, 2007 [3 favorites]


Yes, the parents knew that they were taking a calculated risk. But the risk of this was extremely low.

Wasn't the risk extremely high? That's why the doctors (who really do know what they're doing) advise selective reduction. Their advice isn't because of religious belief and tragedy ensues. Of course I feel sorry for them - it would be inhuman not to. But I'm not going to pretend that there is no causal link between their beliefs and this tragedy.
posted by rhymer at 7:08 AM on July 2, 2007


sorry should read "isn't heeded"
posted by rhymer at 7:09 AM on July 2, 2007


As has been mentioned above, this wasn't IVF, it was a cheaper sort of treatment involving stimulating the ovaries to produce many eggs and then fertilizing them in-body rather than in glass (in-vitro).

IVF treatments rarely result in more than twins nowadays because it has been deemed unethical to put in more than two fertilized embryos in most cases. However, in-body fertilizations can result in many embryos in some cases, since there isn't the same degree of control over the procedure.

Some countries have solved this problem: they fully-fund fertility treatments, including IVF, and then mandate that only one or two embryos be implanted. This has actually saved those public health systems money in the long run - it's cheaper to pay for several IVF treatments than to end up paying for one set of very ill, very premature babies requiring massive care and intervention.

The U.S. is not likely to be so foresighted.

Incidentally, the couple would have been strongly encouraged - browbeaten most likely - to do selective reduction. It would have been explained to them that the risk of most or all of the babies dying was extremely high (not a small, calculated risk as some of the above comments imply). That is, the deaths of most of the fetuses/babies was extremely foreseeable and likely. Had they accepted their doctor's advice, they would now have perhaps two, healthy, large babies rather than two tiny, sickly ones.
posted by jellicle at 7:14 AM on July 2, 2007


Some clinics require ultrasound when doing Clomid treatments in order to avoid super-multiple situations (and also to determine when the eggs are ready to go).

Still, though, it's a difficult game to play because the odds are against multiple fertilization, and even once fertilized, there are substantial odds that some of the eggs won't make it past the initial stages of dividing, or will become "vanishing twins" that never make it past 5-6 weeks or so before they get crowded out by the more viable embryo. It's therefore a pretty safe bet that you won't end up in this situation, even if Clomid produces multiple eggs. The real backstop, though, is the selective reduction procedure.
posted by Mid at 7:35 AM on July 2, 2007


This couple chose to use fertility drugs. Was that wrong? Why? Is it only wrong for Christians to use fertility drugs?

This couple chose to attempt to bring 6 fetuses to life. Was that wrong? Why? Is it only wrong for Christians to carry 6 fetuses?


---

The certainly a lot of Christian-bashing going on here, ironic considering how many hospitals and universities in the country were started by Christian groups.

No pun intended, but get the fuck off the cross, okay?

No, it's not "only wrong" for Christians to use fertility drugs. It's "only wrong" for Christians to take fertility drugs- choosing science over nature at their convenience- and then demand that when a scientist tells them to their fucking face that there will be major problems with the pregnancy, even potentially fatal ones, because they don't think God would like it if they removed a couple of unintended zygotes- that they're just gonna go ahead and let God (and public healthcare) take care of it.

When Christians decide to be shitty Christians, I intend to attack them for it.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:36 AM on July 2, 2007 [10 favorites]


There is a very similar story here; if you don't want to follow the link it is about a couple from GA who went to California and had quadruplets via a surrogate; now the babies are in a neonatal ICU and the parents are living in a trailer in the hospital parking lot trying to scrape together enough money to transfer the babies back to a hospital in Georgia (where they will get further care at taxpayer expense). Ironically, when this article appeared in our local paper, it was right next to an article about how trauma care is being gutted throughout the state due to a lack of funds; it amazes me how few people see the connection between those two things.
posted by TedW at 7:37 AM on July 2, 2007


When Christians decide to be shitty Christians, I intend to attack them for it.

Quite. When you use your faith to make decisions that harm others and cause unnecessary suffering you - and your faith - deserve to be attacked.

Who cares if these people are incredibly devout? They are are incredibly wrong and so is their stupid religion if this is what it drives them to do.
posted by rhymer at 7:46 AM on July 2, 2007


"When Christians decide to be shitty Christians, I intend to attack them for it."
All Christians are shitty Christians. Ask any Christian.
posted by klarck at 7:49 AM on July 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


They should have adopted. They should have done selective reduction. This I firmly believe. Yet they've buried 4 of their kids in the past month and may bury more and you could say it's their fault and somewhere in the back of their mind, they're thinking and feeling the same thing. Maybe, at this point, they should get a "get of condemnation" free card, because whatever you want to say about them are things they're going to say to themselves for the rest of their lives and maybe that's enough.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:56 AM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


But you don't have to be religious to be righteous. And the decisions the Morrisons made may indeed be the same decisions made by a non-religious person.

Let's remove religion from the equation and look at the face value of this issue: fertility drugs and selective reduction.


I agree with you in general, but the problem here is that the Morrisons have chosen to make religion a central part of their very public experience, and in a way that looks suspiciously selective.

(1) As others have pointed out, they have somewhat arbitrarily decided not to accept their fertility problems as "god's will" - choosing to use fertility drugs - but then have used "god's will" as a reason to not selectively reduce.

2) Have a look at their website. What is the tagline? "Ryan, Brianna and six miracles." So, having taken advantage of modern science to conceive, they turn around and label their sextuplets "miracles."

3) Their website - which includes a prominent link to the "Morrison Multiples Corporation" (where you can donate to help them support their children) places their faith front and center. The clear message is, "we are good christians who have been blessed my this miraculous birth, and we welcome your financial support in helping us raise these miracles." It does not say, "after trying for only one year to conceive on our own, we turned to modern scientific medicine to give us a boost, knowing full well that we greatly increased the likelihood of a multiple birth, with all of the attendant medical problems and financial burdens that entailed."

Now, I don't know the Morrisons. They might well be the kindest, most loving, most responsible people on the planet. But if you strip away all of the whinging about "their faith" and their "miracle," there is an alternative, ungenerous reading of their story: a couple of impatient 24-year olds who turn to fertility drugs without adequately considering the attendant risks and burdens, who use "faith" as a means to shield them from making difficult decisions and sharing the additional financial burden that they have chosen to assume.

So no, its not Jesus-hating thats going on here - its suspicion about a couple who appear to use Jesus-language only when it suits their interests and allows them to evade making difficult decisions.
posted by googly at 8:01 AM on July 2, 2007 [10 favorites]


Here, I'll be judgmental.

I have to admit that when, in conversation, the topic of fertility treatments comes up, I feel downright queasy. Why is it so f'ing important to have a child that comes from your own egg, uterus, or sperm? I hate hearing that people want to have children of "our own." I don't get it. Maybe I'm missing the passing-down-the-genes gene.

Surrogate mothers? Hugely multiple births? Thousands and thousands of dollars being spent, per possible embryo? Good grief, it really does make me feel ill inside. There are so many other ways to become a parent -- like by adoption. Why is adoption so freakin' expensive and not covered by insurance like genetic manipulation is?

Now, I know I'm something of a hyprocrite. Here's full disclosure. I have a gorgeous son who lived in my uterus for 7.5 months. I was 23, he barely made it out alive, subsequent spontaneous pregnancies ended in miscarriage years ago, and I'm done with the biological way of becoming a parent. I'm looking forward to adopting at some point relatively soon.
posted by houseofdanie at 8:02 AM on July 2, 2007


oddman At a very real, and human level, I think these people are assholes who just suffered a horrible loss of their own making. That doesn't make the loss they've suffered any less of a loss, and I really do feel sorry for them. But it doesn't make it any less their fault either.

57% of *twin* births are premature and (of course) low birth weight. The odds go up almost geometrically for each additional child, and birth weight goes down for each additional child. Furthermore there pretty strong corelation between premature birth and mental and/or physical disability, and the severity and likelihood of such disability increases the earlier the child is born. They were doubtless informed of this by their doctor when they were advised to reduce.

Right now there is exactly one set of sextuplets in the US where all children survived. *ONE*. This means that it was a virtual certanty that some of the children would die following birth. They chose this, and therefore their pain is their fault. I feel sorry for them, but I must acknowledge that they created their own situation knowingly.

I'm not suggesting that the state should have forced them to reduce (that'd be completely wrong), I'm not suggesting that their religion be outlawed, I'm not even going to complain about the cost to society that their decision produced.

To make an analogy, let's look at Christian Scientists. Sometimes they die, or suffer horribly, because they refuse medical care. I'm sorry for their suffering, but to fail to recognize that its their own fault is foolish.
posted by sotonohito at 8:06 AM on July 2, 2007


Brandon Blatcher wrote "Maybe, at this point, they should get a "get of condemnation" free card, because whatever you want to say about them are things they're going to say to themselves for the rest of their lives and maybe that's enough."

And maybe, after all this, they'll do it again because people like you want to let them evade responsibility for their actions.

Actions have consiquences. When a person messes up they have two choices: they can either come up with excuses for why their mistake isn't really their fault, or they can admit that they messed up and change their behavior so it doesn't happen again. A quick look at their website shows that they are doing everything to deny that they messed up, instead its all God's fault.

So, at this point, I think its pretty evident that they need all the condemnation they can get because otherwise they'll be able to convince themselves that it wasn't their fault that four (so far) of their children died because of a mistake they made. And if they can succeed in deluding themselves they'll do it again.

I am compelled by my essential nature to feel sorry for them. I am compelled by my political philosophy to acknowledge that the state has no right to force them (and people like them) to take the correct action. I am not compelled by anything to let them blame an imaginary father figure for their own failures so they can repeat them.
posted by sotonohito at 8:15 AM on July 2, 2007


It's true. They need our condemnation.
posted by rhymer at 8:18 AM on July 2, 2007


So, it's okay to play God and take drugs to make you fertile when you're not, but it's not okay to play God to have a healthy pregnancy instead of giving birth to 6 under-developed babies.

c'mon...there's no big ethical question here. If you're morally against adoption you should also be morally against drugs that have a huge probability in resulting in multiple fertilizations.

nothing gets under my skin more than people that think it's God's will for them to have six one pound babies. Jesus Tap Dancing Christ.
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:24 AM on July 2, 2007


Clomid, oh Clomid. I've heard some horror stories about you!
posted by agregoli at 8:34 AM on July 2, 2007


Everything is God's will.
posted by smackwich at 8:34 AM on July 2, 2007


Quoth pastabagel

>>They are Medicaid resources intended to be used for public health.

I hope no one goes without lifesaving treatment because all the cash was spent on a litter. Good use of funds!


>>You know what else is a significant drain on "society's" resources? Drugs and alcohol.

You know who the worst addicts are? Unwanted children who grow up in wretched family environments. Yet most faiths encourage their practitioners to have many children. More adherents, you know. More adherents means more power and more money.


God may well be wonderful. I haven't met him/her/it. But the way some people use faith to manipulate reproduction is not Godly, it's worldly, and it's sickening.
posted by SaintCynr at 8:36 AM on July 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


And maybe, after all this, they'll do it again because people like you want to let them evade responsibility for their actions.

They fucked up. They buried 4 kids. How is that evading responsibility? And if you do think it's evading responsibility, why do you think condeming them will force them to accept responsibility, let alone on some website that they'll never read?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:37 AM on July 2, 2007


Brandon Blatcher I think the point that's being made is that they have used their faith as the basis for a stupid decision that flies in the faith of medical advice. As a result they cause unneccessary suffering (a dying full-term baby feels a whole lot more pain than a "reduced" fetus) and put the whole thing off as "God's will." That is an evasion of responsibility - albeit a tragic one based on a stupid and wrongheaded religion.
posted by rhymer at 8:45 AM on July 2, 2007


Avenger wrote: So is infertility really an illness? Like blindness and deafness?

Yes, infertility is an illness, whether you happen to agree with the reasons behind why someone would want to produce children or not.

Infertility can be caused by many factors, including hormonal imbalance, immunological issues, sperm motility problems, genetic disorders or Rh factor problems (the latter can produce a baby with an illness: Rh Hemolytic Disease.)

Generally infertility either prevents conception from occurring or causes a miscarriage. In all of these instances and others, infertility would be defined as a disease state, i.e. one in which either a male or female body is unable to function normally, in this case, in order to produce a healthy baby.
posted by zarq at 8:46 AM on July 2, 2007


Ryan, Brianna and six miracles

Maybe they meant The Miracles.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:54 AM on July 2, 2007


You know who else is a significant drain on society's resources? Poor people. They are drunk, high, obese and violent out of proportion to their number. Should we bash poor people?

Poor people don't choose to be poor and destitute drug addicts don't choose to be destitute drug addicts (indeed, there are many drug and and alcohol users who are not destitute and not drains on society)
posted by delmoi at 8:59 AM on July 2, 2007


God is teaching them a Difficult Lesson™, but it's all part of His Wonderful Plan©. I'm sure they're Learning A Lot® through this experience.

Look on the bright side: there are four new angels in Heaven.

Or maybe they're in Hell, being sinful by nature and having not accepted Jesus into their hearts. Oh well, either way.
posted by LordSludge at 9:01 AM on July 2, 2007


They fucked up. They buried 4 kids. How is that evading responsibility?

So, if I shake my baby too hard, and it dies, nothing else should happen to me because I had to "bury" the kid?

Anyway, the reason for the condemnation is make sure other people get the idea that they shouldn't do this kind of thing.
posted by delmoi at 9:01 AM on July 2, 2007


One of worst things about this whole sorry episode is the insidious relativism at work in America that tells us that anything you do based on Christianity is somehow a valid point of view.

Don't you dare criticize another man's faith-based stupidity. No sir. (Unless of course his faith is the Middle eastern kind).
posted by rhymer at 9:07 AM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think the point that's being made is that they have used their faith as the basis for a stupid decision

Because no one without faith has ever made a stupid decision, right? Condemn the decision all you want, but I'm not sure why it deserves the extra venom becaue they're Christians.

And frankly, if I had to bury 4 of my kids in the past, I'd be saying it's God will too, and probalby getting all sorts of religion and I'm agnostic.

So, if I shake my baby too hard, and it dies, nothing else should happen to me because I had to "bury" the kid?

The Morrisons didn't do anything illegal. It was foolish, dumb, short-sighted, probably greedy and irrational, but it wasn't illegal.

Anyway, the reason for the condemnation is make sure other people get the idea that they shouldn't do this kind of thing.


Ok, the next time awoman iss denied birth control by a religious doctor in order to teach her that she shouldn't do this sort of thing, that actions have consequences, then you're going to be ok with that right?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:07 AM on July 2, 2007


Anyway, the reason for the condemnation is make sure other people get the idea that they shouldn't do this kind of thing.

No doubt that'll work, especially if it's really insulting, insensitive and couched in people-who-believe-in-God-are-stupid terms.
posted by MarshallPoe at 9:11 AM on July 2, 2007


I understand the desire to have children, and to seek outside assistance in the quest to have a family; my husband and I are currently discussing our various options as a means to have another child after two and a half years of trying to conceive. This was actually a hot-topic issue for us, as we initially fell on different sides of the argument.

Though its nothing I'm shouting from the rooftops here in the Bible Belt, I have told a few friends about how strongly I believe in the option to selectively terminate in the case of multiples ('multiples' in this scenario meaning three or more) being available and discussed in depth with mothers facing carrying a litter of children. The friends I've discussed this with, by and large, have been horrified by my stance; They all seem to feel that its just too immoral to 'choose' which babies would live or die.

I think its immoral to attempt to carry 5, 6 fetuses to term, knowing that they will, in all likelihood, be born dangerously pre-term, and wracked with lifelong medical issues. I'd rather have 1 or 2 healthy children than six sickly babies whom I'm worried may not make it through the night.

We've tried too hard, waited too long, dreamed too much of what our family could be, to knowingly jeopardize that vision of having healthy children by some creepy alliance with an invisible man, and a church community that insists we follow an outdated religious doctrine. And while I can certainly respect that other people don't feel the same as I do, I have a hard time grasping the concept that other people who want to have children as desperately as my husband and I do would rather risk the well-being of several of them by attempting to carry a half-dozen fetuses at a time and praying for the best, instead of aiming for a healthy, full-term pregnancy with only one or two.
posted by camigirl at 9:14 AM on July 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


This was a "calculated risk" just like doing drugs, alcohol and / or tobacco during pregnancy is a calculated risk ... and for similar absolutely irrational reasons.

Substitute Christian for junkie and it will become vlear. Neither dope nor organized religion can really claim the moral high ground in this or a number of moral issues.
posted by magullo at 9:22 AM on July 2, 2007


Having a child is just so fundamentally part of the human experience - and especially defining for women ... the way medicine is advancing, why should that genetic life sentence be the last word?

I reject this classification of women. It's unproven. I'd like to believe I'm a complete woman nullipstyle.

p.s. a "life sentence" usually connotes something much worse than DINK status.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:22 AM on July 2, 2007 [5 favorites]


Because no one without faith has ever made a stupid decision, right? Condemn the decision all you want, but I'm not sure why it deserves the extra venom becaue they're Christians.

I don't think they deserve condemnation "because they're Christians." As you say, religious and non-religious people make bad decisions all the time.

The point here is actually how they appear to selectively use their "faith" to justify their decisions (or evasions thereof) when it suits them. Take a look at their website, which trumpets their faith left and right and refers to their "miracle" children. Remember, "It’s not too late to show your loving support to this precious family. All proceeds of the Garage Sale Fundraiser will go directly to the Morrisons."
posted by googly at 9:27 AM on July 2, 2007


Brandon Blatcher: delmoi and rhymer already answered, but let me invite you to look at the Morrison websites. Nothing written there indicates that they acknowledge even the slightest responsibility for the deaths they have caused.

"As we listened to the sound of those six beating hearts I felt crushed by the weight of the miracle that was bearing down on me. For a year and a half we had tried to conceive, only to be swallowed up by a life-changing act of God." (my emphisis)

That's from the "Our Story" link on their frontpage. The sextuplits weren't the result of them taking fertility drugs, nope, it was just a life-changing act of God.

"They said that reducing the number of fetuses now would increase the chance of survival for the the remaining fetusus as they develop, and would decrease the chance of long-term health risks for the babies that were carried to term. However, we knew right away that this is not an option for us. We understand that the risk is high, but we also understand that these little ones are much more than six fetuses. Each one of them is a miracle given to us by God. He knows each one of them by name and we will trust Him absolutely for their lives and health." (my emphisis)

They didn't trust God's decision when it came to concieving a baby instead of going childless or chosing adoption, but when the time came to make a tough decision they were right there abandoinging all responsibility and putting all the blame on God. Do you see the pattern yet?

Like I said, I'm sorry that they just saw four babies die, and have a good chance of seeing the other two die. But that outcome is the result of their choice not to reduce. And they still haven't claimed responsibility. No press release about how they made a mistake and its their fault, nope its all just babble about miracles and "God's will".

Also, I'm a lot sorrier for the doctors, nurses and other people who fought to keep the children alive and saw them die anyway than I am for the two assholes who decided to abandon responsibility for their actions to some imaginary being. The result of the Morrison's irresponsibility is not only four deaths (so far), but also the psychological trauma felt by the entire medical team at their hospital as a result of those deaths. Have they issued an appology yet? No? Can you see why I'm saying they are evading responsibility?

They are, of course, free to believe whatever they want to. But, simultaniously, I think that the belief they espouse is a dangerous (and virulant) one, that needs to be countered in order to avoid it infeting other people.
posted by sotonohito at 9:30 AM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


As far as I'm aware, most fertility specialists require their patients to sign a form authorizing a selective reduction if the pregnancy results in more than two babies. With triplets or higher, the risks to the health of the mother and the fetuses (fetii?) rise to dangerous levels. As we can see in this particular case, those dangers are all too real.

Couples who undergo IUI are at greater risk for high-multiples than those who undergo IVF. With IUI, fertility drugs like Follistim (when used in conjunction with Clomid) can stimulate more than two follicles (each with it's own egg) to maturity. With IVF, when only two embryos are implanted even if both survive, the chances that either will divide and become a twin are small.

After months, sometimes years of failed fertility treatments, involving repeated uncomfortable internal ultrasounds, self-administered injections of fertility drugs into the stomach, possible severe reactions to artificially-induced hormone levels and other frustrating, painful treatments, many couples are so overjoyed to be given a positive result that they are scared to death of selective reduction. SR carries a 5% risk of causing a miscarriage. Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) tests and amniocentesis, which are both used to detect genetic abnormalities, also carry some risks. (CVS is between .5% and 1% and amniocentesis ranges from .001% to 5%.)

Though the risk of fetal abnormality or death in a pregnancy with triplets or more is higher than from selective reduction, even for non-religious folk, logic doesn't always present the strongest argument.

For everyone who comments here and is so quick to condemn them for their choice, I would humbly suggest that in addition to their religious beliefs, you also consider the psychological factors that *always* play a role in these matters.

There's a moral argument to be made here, that's for sure. I personally think it's completely immoral to carry more than two babies to term if doing so will subject them to all sorts of potential medical problems. Quality of life, not quantity, should be paramount. But even those of us who are non-Christian don't find it easy to make that choice. And unless you've walked in their shoes and been through similar treatments, self-righteous claims of how their choice is "a strain upon society" ring very, very hollow.
posted by zarq at 9:31 AM on July 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


(Oops, hit post rather than preview by mistake).

As I said above, the Morrisons are perfectly happy to use modern medicine to speed up conception, but then use Jesus-language to evade making the tough medical decisions and assuming the financial burdens that ensue. Its not their Christianity per se that is a problem (though there are plenty of religion-bashers in this thread), its the apparent hubris that goes along with it in their case.
posted by googly at 9:37 AM on July 2, 2007


The point here is actually how they appear to selectively use their "faith" to justify their decisions (or evasions thereof) when it suits them.

Hell, most people do that, either with faith or something else.

look at the Morrison websites. Nothing written there indicates that they acknowledge even the slightest responsibility for the deaths they have caused.

Because most people, within a month of burying their kids, are on their website, expressing their feelings.

Because a month is plenty of time to reflect on the death of your kids, even as your trying to help the other two live.


To be perfectly clear, I think the Morrisons made poor, foolish choices for stupid reasons. The website is distasteful, their refusal to get proper medical advice unbeliebably ignorant and if I had my way, they would be banned from ever trying anything like this again and forbidden from adopting.

But they're in the midst of the sort of grief most of will never know, so yeah, cut'em some slack.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:52 AM on July 2, 2007


zarq I agree completely that it wouldn't be an easy choice, never said otherwise. Also, I've only seen one person here make the "strain on society" argument, and he was shot down pretty quickly. Most of us who think the Morrisons are being irresponsible jerks haven't made that argument (I certainly haven't, in fact I've explicitly rejected it).

I'm quick to condemn them because the quandry they faced had a single correct answer. It may not have been the easy choice, but the right choice is not always the easy choice. They, when faced with the choice of doing what was right, or what was easy, chose to do what was easy and as a result they are suffering and they have brought suffering on others.

The above isn't, in and of itself, cause for condemnation. People fuck up all the time, its part of being human. The only real question is what you do afterwards. They haven't accepted responsibility for their actions, they haven't demonstrated that they've learned anything, or that in the future their behavior will be any different. That, not the initial mistake, is why I condemn them.

Brandon Blatcher Like I said, I'm saving most of my sympathy for the doctors they've forced to watch their children die. I do feel sympathy for the Morrisons, but I also expect people to not abuse my sympathy.

I can see your position, but I disagree with it. A month is not a long time, but it isn't right away either. How long will you let them avoid responsibility for their actions before you're willing to say "ok, that's long enough"?
posted by sotonohito at 9:56 AM on July 2, 2007


Anyway, the reason for the condemnation is make sure other people get the idea that they shouldn't do this kind of thing.

No doubt that'll work, especially if it's really insulting, insensitive and couched in people-who-believe-in-God-are-stupid terms.


Actually probably would. Social approval is paramount in many people's moral decisions. Not that people were doing that and not making a fairly obvious argument of hypocrisy in their decision but still probably would work anyway.

Similarly for those who point out the psychological factor...there are psychological factors involved in many actions where we don't give them the green light. When someone angers you, there's a huge psychological tendency to want to beat them senseless but in most cases it's simply not moral to do so. Similarly there are many decisions in parenting that are simply bad choices that we as a society give a complete pass on because we have to understand how they feel as parents. Start publicly chastising this and perhaps it will lessen as the former has.
posted by kigpig at 10:07 AM on July 2, 2007


They haven't accepted responsibility for their actions, they haven't demonstrated that they've learned anything,

They don't owe that to me or you and you're not going to get that from a website.

How long will you let them avoid responsibility for their actions before you're willing to say "ok, that's long enough"?

I don't have that kind of power and neither does anyone here.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:08 AM on July 2, 2007


Having a child is just so fundamentally part of the human experience - and especially defining for women ... the way medicine is advancing, why should that genetic life sentence be the last word?

Ambrosia Voyeur said:

I reject this classification of women. It's unproven. I'd like to believe I'm a complete woman nullipstyle.

Thank you. You read my mind. You are a complete woman nullipstyle, and so am I.
posted by agregoli at 10:09 AM on July 2, 2007


Should be illegal to use these fertility drugs without the selective reduction procedure.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:20 AM on July 2, 2007


It's clear that they are guilty of reckless endangerment by bringing 6 six to term simultaneously. And this became man slaughter when the kids started dieing.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:33 AM on July 2, 2007


Because most people, within a month of burying their kids, are on their website, expressing their feelings.

Indeed, setting up a corporation and showing off page counts must have taken most of their time.
posted by magullo at 10:35 AM on July 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


Two points. I said that the probability of having multiple fertilizations using Clomid was low, extremely low when considering the possibility of sextuple fertilization. Now, upon receiving the news that they were going to have sextuplets they were, of course, aware that the possibility that the pregnancy would be problematic and that the kids could have severe problems were very high. Still. When placed, by extremely bad luck, in an awful situation they made a rationally consistent choice and hoped for the best. This is something that they should be condemned for? Really?

Now the claim that it was rationally consistent to try to carry the sextuplets to term has been under attack and I'll defend that briefly. Many of you seem to have this frankly silly view of Christians and their belief about God's will. It should be obvious that simply because Christians believe that some things come about as a result of God's we do no conclude that all things do. That would be an obviously false and hasty generalization. We, I'm Catholic, believe that those things which are beyond our, i.e. human, control are under the purview of God. Having six eggs fertilized as a result of Clomid treatments is one of these things. However, we have no grounds for ascribing to God those things that humans can control. Having an abortion and destroying some of your children so that others will be happier is one of those things that we can control and is therefore under our control not God's. So, there is no contradiction in their stance. They could control whether or not they could conceive because there are treatments for this condition. They could not control how many eggs would be fertilized. They could control how many children would be aborted. They exercised their control where they could. What's the contradiction? Christians believe in free will, we are not fatalists. Stop arguing against a strawman.

Now it may be the case that you disagree with the decision that they made with respect to the reduction/destruction/abortion of some of the embryos. That's fine, it's your right to disagree with that. But it is disingenuous to argue that a person cannot consistently believe that God is responsible for some things and that one is responsible for other things.

It is also disingenuous to believe that undergoing fertility treatments and refusing to have an abortion are the same kind of actions. The former is an ethically acceptable act with some risk, the other, if you are Christian, is an unethical act (with risks). There is no Christian reason to refrain from engaging in mildly risk (less than %0.1 of Clomid pregnancies have quintuplets) act while, obviously, there are strong commandments to refrain from acting unethically.

Are those of you that are dead set on assigning blame here equally dead set on assigning blame in all cases in which an action has foreseeable, but slight and unintended, negative consequences? Should an athlete be roasted and condemned if a legal maneuver causes an opponent a permanent injury? Should a doctor or nurse be blamed if a patient has a bad reaction to a medicine? Should a mother be blamed if a properly cooked chicken gives her family food poisoning? All of these, and countless other actions, are ethically acceptable acts with foreseeable and obvious negative consequences. Do you really think that the agents in these cases should be condemned? These people are operating under a particular set of ethical guidelines. They are acting consistently and in good faith. If you feel comfortable condemning them, you must ask yourself why. Are you so confident in your ethical system that you feel free to condemn the actions of others so freely?

It must be nice to have such dogmatic certainty.
posted by oddman at 10:41 AM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think we all know that this, like many other difficult issues in life, was summed up the best in a snippet of dialogue from Grey's Anatomy:


(Cut to Izzie alone with Dorie in her hospital room. Izzie is looking at the heart readings for the quintuplets)
DORIE: How’s it look?
IZZIE: Not bad.
DORIE: Not bad?
IZZIE: Not bad is pretty good when you have 5 babies inyour uterus.
(Dorie makes a slight sigh of pain. Izzie looks at her)
DORIE: Ah. It’s Kate. She kicks me so hard. It’s like a bellyburn every time.
IZZIE (raises her eyebrows but looking at Dorie’s patient file): You’ve named them already?
DORIE: I know you think I’m crazy. Or maybe just a little bit stupid?
IZZIE: Mrs. Russell, I’m sorry if I’ve done something to offend you.
DORIE: The only thing that will offend me is if you pretend that you haven’t been judging me since the minute we met. (Izzie is silent) We’re gonna be spending a lot of time together so we may as well be honest, right?
IZZIE: If you had reduced the fetuses, even by two, the other three could’ve been carried longer, been more developed and born healthier.
DORIE: And you’re about the 16th doctor that’s told me that.
(Izzie is quiet. Dorie reaches out and grabs Izzie’s arm. She places Izzie’s hand on her stomach)
DORIE: This one up here. This is Charlotte. She’s the stubborn one. Lodged into my rib cage. Won’t budge.
(She moves Izzie hand to another part of her stomach)
DORIE: Now over here, Lucy. She’s a bad ass. If she gets kicked, she kicks back.
(She moves Izzie’s hand again. Izzie is smiling)
DORIE: Emily. She has the hiccups almost everyday.
(Again moves Izzie’s hand)
DORIE: And over here is Julie. She’s pretty mellow. Every once in a while she just turns over. (Again moves Izzie’s hand) Which brings us back to Kate.
IZZIE: Who gives you belly burn.
DORIE (grinning): Every time she kicks.


See! All it takes is a little bit of love, and probably a The Fray song with some slow-mo emoting, and everyone will learn to agree.

Fuck this couple. They're selfish assholes who don't deserve my sympathy.
posted by mckenney at 10:51 AM on July 2, 2007


posted by jeffburdges It's clear that they are guilty of reckless endangerment by bringing 6 six to term simultaneously. And this became man slaughter when the kids started dieing.

Exactly. And the cramped and overcrowded conditions in Mrs. Morrison's uterus are nothing short of child abuse, neglect, endangerment, and probably violate all sorts of local zoning laws with regards to the maximum number of occupants. CFS must investigate Mrs. Morrison's uterus immediately.

Won't someone think of the fertility-drug-induced multiple unborn children?
posted by fandango_matt at 10:57 AM on July 2, 2007


Indeed, setting up a corporation and showing off page counts must have taken most of their time.

This was done before the birth of the kdis.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:04 AM on July 2, 2007


As far as the condemnation is concerned:

If the Morrisons had made the decision to keep their pregnancy and the births relatively private, then I might feel less of a need to speak out against what they've done. But this is not the least bit private-- as sotonohito and magullo have pointed out, the Morrisons have chosen to make their story very, very public. They're holding themselves out as an example, and I think it's appropriate for those of us who see them as narcissistic child endangerers rather then as blessed agents of God's love to be very up-front about our criticism.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 12:11 PM on July 2, 2007


The Morrisons didn't do anything illegal. It was foolish, dumb, short-sighted, probably greedy and irrational, but it wasn't illegal

So the legal issue is important in your judgement of this scenario?

They get a "get out of condemnation free card" because they endangered six children while in a womans uterus, if they had done so after their swim down the birth canal it would be illegal, so would condemnation be appropriate then?

Its funny if that is your view because the Morrisons wouldn't make that distinction, to them a fetus is the same as a newborn baby.

They put their children in a scenario virtually guaranteed to result in the death of at least one and long term medical problems for the rest, i think they get off lucky if condemnation is all they get.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 12:27 PM on July 2, 2007


Stop it, they did not put their children in "a scenario virtually guaranteed to result in the death of at least one of them." There was no intent to have multiple fertilizations nor any reasonable expectation that so many eggs would be released and fertilized.

Imagine that a couple with six children found themselves trapped in a cabin during freak blizzard. They find themselves unable to escape their cabin and are assured by experts (via cell phones) that it is a virtual certainty that at least one of the kids will die before the family can be rescued. The experts all agree that the only sensible course of action for the couple is to kill 2-4 of the kids so that the rest have enough food to survive. (Of course, the couple knew that just such a storm was a very remote possibility.)
This little thought experiment is directly analogous to the current problem, it is how the parents saw themselves. In such a scenario do you really think it's acceptable to kill 2-3 of the kids?
posted by oddman at 12:48 PM on July 2, 2007


Much as this couple sucks, can we resist the urge to tie global overpopulation to white Christians from the Midwest? It's the silliest and most illogical use of this whipping-boy yet. Are India and China now full of "selfish assholes" too?
posted by kid ichorous at 12:58 PM on July 2, 2007


So the legal issue is important in your judgement of this scenario?

I was commenting on the comparsion of what the Morrisons did with the hypothetical delmoi was proposing. There's difference between taking a risk (however high that risk is) and actually shaking a child to death. It's not like they went in demanding to have six kids. It was an accident.


They get a "get out of condemnation free card" because they endangered six children while in a womans uterus


No, they get one because they buried 4 of them already. Whatever you or I say to them probably won't make them feel any worse than they already do.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:59 PM on July 2, 2007


I disagree. Because they feel bad, sure, who wouldn't, but they probably ameliorate that feeling with the old "God's Will" doozy. Well, they should feel worse, and shouldn't be allowed to be like "well, too bad, God didn't want them to live". They should feel horribly, terribly guilty as well as just bereaved, and the whole God thing is a convenient escape from what should be at least 50% of their agony right now.
posted by mckenney at 1:06 PM on July 2, 2007


posted by kid ichorous Are India and China now full of "selfish assholes" too?

Selfish? Perhaps.
Irresponsible and ignorant? Yes.
posted by fandango_matt at 1:07 PM on July 2, 2007


Well, they should feel worse, and shouldn't be allowed to be like "well, too bad, God didn't want them to live".

Where did they say that?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:12 PM on July 2, 2007


There was no intent to have multiple fertilizations nor any reasonable expectation that so many eggs would be released and fertilized.

They ignored the advice of any sane doctor then handed responsibility over to jesus, after they showed a complete lack of faith in jesus to bring about the pregnancy they so desperately sought.

The result of their bringing about pregnancy than handing over to god was virtually guaranteed death for at least one child and long term medical problems for the rest.

They may not have intended that from the start but they were made aware of the facts early enough to do something and they refused. There was only going to be one outcome after that and it wasn't going to be good.

And the answer to your thought experiment would be for the parents to kill themselves, not wait for jesus to save them.

It's not like they went in demanding to have six kids. It was an accident.

So can shaking a baby to death, after all, mommy and daddy need their sleep.

See above though, yes it was an accident but they were aware of the facts early enough to change the situation to give some of the kids a chance, that was when jesus became their best bud, they didn't seem to think he was the one to go to when they wanted babies though,, funny that.

No, they get one because they buried 4 of them already

This is where we miss eachother and i think several other people are going right by you too. There are some of us who feel like those four dead babies (and the two very sick ones left) are their fault so they unable to feel the same kind of sympathy as they would for a couple who lost children in a car accident or a fire or something.

Whatever you or I say to them probably won't make them feel any worse than they already do.

Then there is little point in either of us sommenting, and yet we still do.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 1:17 PM on July 2, 2007


"They don't owe that to me or you"

Mm, well, they kinda do, in a way. It's this whole "society" or "community" thing we live in, where each of us has a responsibility for our behavior amidst the whole. People who behave in ways that are harmful to community/society, who make choices that damage the community/society, receive societal sanctions of various types and severities.

This thread contains such societal sanctions.

"But this is not the least bit private-- as sotonohito and magullo have pointed out, the Morrisons have chosen to make their story very, very public. They're holding themselves out as an example, and I think it's appropriate for those of us who see them as narcissistic child endangerers rather then as blessed agents of God's love to be very up-front about our criticism."

Exactly. Wave your flag in public, and you're going to get the whole gamut of public reaction.

"We, I'm Catholic, believe that those things which are beyond our, i.e. human, control are under the purview of God. Having six eggs fertilized as a result of Clomid treatments is one of these things. However, we have no grounds for ascribing to God those things that humans can control."

So, you're saying that from your point of view, God's will didn't have anything to do with their inability to conceive without intervention from medical science? I mean, whether one conceives a child or not is one of those things that isn't under human control - absent of applying medical technology. So that would seem to come under God's purview, no?
posted by zoogleplex at 1:20 PM on July 2, 2007


Where did they say that?

We understand that the risk is high, but we also understand that these little ones are much more than six fetuses. Each one of them is a miracle given to us by God. He knows each one of them by name and we will trust Him absolutely for their lives and health
posted by Reggie Knoble at 1:25 PM on July 2, 2007


Oh, come on. If you imply that the life of the children is under God's protection, and then those kids die, it follows you would believe it was God's will. You hear it all the time, and most of the time, I figure it's innocuous enough. It provides comfort and a sense that someone is controlling the outcome.

In this case, though, I think it prevents them from being able to realize the real role they played in the deaths of their children.
posted by mckenney at 1:29 PM on July 2, 2007


I've actually grown angry thinking about this situation and reading the comments here.

The courts have already held that children can be treated medically against their parents' will if the child's life is at risk. Religious claims are not enough to prevent removing an appendix about to rupture, for example.

But, now we have a quandary because these children were not yet born, further componded by the fact that the "treatment" would mean death for at least some of the fetuses. Do we really want the courts lurking around in our (collective) wombs?

It's a mess. And it's something that would be tricky and messy, if not impossible, to legislate.

So, much like MeFi, the proper decision is community policing.

Yes, these parents should be ostracized and blamed because they killed those 4 children. They killed them every bit as much as if they had given them poison or strangled them.

Their hypocrisy is hard to swallow, and anyone refusing to see that is being willfully obtuse. You don't go to a fertility clinic and then thank God for your little "miracles", many of which should have been terminated early to insure maximum viability for the others. The pregnancy was a miracle of science, and their God failed them all along this process.

But, when pressed, they abandoned the science that brought them such joy, and reverted back to their superstitions.

You can't have it both ways. And they should have listened to their doctors.

Also, the doc who put a 24 year old couple who had only been trying a year on fertility treatments needs his/her license revoked. Absurd.
posted by Ynoxas at 1:38 PM on July 2, 2007


Oddman, what bothers me about this is that somehow, the consequences of their inaction becomes "God's Will". Their decision not to selectively reduce early has predictably resulted in a late term abortion of at least four, and likely all six fetuses. I think most reasonable people would agree that aborting a fetus at 22 weeks is not the same as doing so at 8 weeks; for me, the likelyhood of the fetus suffering is what's important, and their decision has ensured as much suffering as possible.

To the Morrisons, the difference is they can wash their hands of it because it's God's will. But it was their decision that resulted in the fetuses being taken from the womb when none of them weighed substantially more than a pound. If by chance, one of them manages to survive, then they will have accomlished the same thing as selective reduction, just with higher risk, and did so at a late enough stage for the fetuses to suffer. Even if both currently living children survive, they will likely suffer from lifelong illness as a result of their parents' reckless choice to do nothing and hope for the best.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 1:49 PM on July 2, 2007


So, folks here saying they’re idiots for not adopting and how so many kids are in need, etc. Ok - how many of those unwanted kids have you adopted? Thought about being a foster parent? Been a big brother?
(Oh, but Smed, I don’t WANT kids!) uh huh. And that makes it all ok.
That’s as stupid as pro-life people arguing that people shouldn’t have sex in order to avoid pregnancy. (Oh, but Smed, I WANT sex, I just don’t want kids). And of course, that makes it all ok to abort fetuses.
Same-same.
Nailing that bit of hypocracy is not a defense of these particular people. I’ve been through all this stuff on many sides of this equation.

I think the method (religion) by which they derived their decision was flawed. I agree it is an evasion of responsibility on their part to trust the result to God. When my wife and I were looking at having kids each step was subject to rational analysis. Whatever gave the best odds for a successful result of a healthy child, that we would do.
Because that was our goal, whatever the method. If it could sceintifically be proven to me that covering myself in goat entrails would help the delivery, I’d’ve done that whether I thought it was distasteful or not. As it is there are more measured procedures to follow. If I knew that at some point I would have to make a decision which was unethical yet served the goal I would have terminated the process and found another (as has been mentioned, adoption, etc.)

Here, however, the method (religion) took precedence over the goal. Therefore their religion is more important to them than a healthy child derived through this process.
That is not a problem, but as has been mentioned, if the two goals are incompatable (obviously their goal is a living child) one must go.
They refused to give up either and placed the responsibility for that decision in the hands of God.
While I concede there are some things beyond man, I do not place any decision I am involved in into God’s hands. (Captain of my fate, all that)

“This little thought experiment is directly analogous to the current problem”

I disagree. Obviously any thought experiment has to be simplified, but yours has simplified the decision making process. Quite apart from ignoring the debate over where life begins in setting the kids as well past birth.

Closer to the actual decision making would be if one is on a plane, does one trust in the skills and advice of the pilot, or does one leave the stick clear and put one’s fate into the hands of God?

I grant that once the conception had taken place the couple were indeed trapped. But they had accepted the risk and so should have followed through with the process as a whole to achieve their a priori goal.
Once you drive a car, you accept risk and accept mitigation of it by paying for insurance and taking other precautions. If you object to those precautions and conditions, don’t get in the car.
The Amish do just fine without them.
Certainly the risk was low - but it was a potential. They put themselves in that position. They either accept the initial conditions and have their particular ethics yield or they don’t.
If their ethical frame work won’t yield to a particular method - there are as has been amply pointed out - other methods of getting a child.
Mercy, understanding and compassion notwithstanding.
If I drive a car with my kid in the car, there’s a low chance of a collison, but it’s me at the wheel. I’m the one that shields them from the cold equations of life. It is by my will, not God’s, that they eat, are clean and safe, and have no fear at night (because I’m the baddest MF-er in the valley).
My heart goes out to these folks, but when it comes to making life and death decisions about my children bottom line - there’s ME and then there’s God.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:52 PM on July 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


"The courts have already held that children can be treated medically against their parents' will if the child's life is at risk."

Ah, but Ynoxas, the courts have also held (so far) that fetuses are not children.

Thus extending the confusion.
posted by zoogleplex at 1:53 PM on July 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


Also, the doc who put a 24 year old couple who had only been trying a year on fertility treatments needs his or her license revoked.

Amen to that. Putting aside the question of whether these two feel sufficient guilt for this outcome--because who can really know, ever?--I am boggled by the doctor that gave a treatment that would allow this to happen without, ya know, checking if the couple would allow selective reduction. We put an amazing amount of trust in docs to guide us right, arguably too much (see: any AskMe question ever where someone wants to be armed with a bit of information before visiting a doc, or who wants to know whether a diagnosis might be wrong).

I am not an expert on Clomid and have no clue whether this is really a freakish outcome that no one could have expected, or a fairly predictable outcome. I can bet that this couple did not know either, and relied on a doctor to alert them. If the doctor did not let the couple know, shame on them. If they did, and went ahead with the treatment anyway without ascertaining whether selective reduction was an option, shame on them again.
posted by iminurmefi at 1:54 PM on July 2, 2007


zoogleplex is correct. As long as America continues to leave 'foetal rights' to the courts, it's going to be a hot issue and political football. People should have a vote on the subject.

This sort of fertility treatment should be reviewed, IMO.
posted by chuckdarwin at 2:42 PM on July 2, 2007


They ignored the advice of any sane doctor then handed responsibility over to jesus,

Nah, they couldn't bear to kill any of their kids, so they let nature run it's course. While they wrapped their decision up in Godtalk, which I personally find disasteful, if I think of it as parents not being willing to kill any of their kids, that sheds a different liight on things.


So can shaking a baby to death, after all, mommy and daddy need their sleep.

We're wandering further and further away from the issue, to follow a hypothetical, so I'm gonna drop it.

There are some of us who feel like those four dead babies (and the two very sick ones left) are their fault

The dead babies were ALWAYS gonna be their fault. It was just a question of what side of the vagina they were going to be killed on. Remember the doctors were pushing for selective reduction, which would have killed some of the kids. The parents weren't willing to do that, so no matter which way they turned, some of their kids were going to die. Given that choice I can understand their decision, even if I don't agree with it.


This thread contains such societal sanctions.

This thread contains a bunch of people (me included) talking. No of here can apply sanctions to them.

We understand that the risk is high, but we also understand that these little ones are much more than six fetuses. Each one of them is a miracle given to us by God. He knows each one of them by name and we will trust Him absolutely for their lives and health

That is not the same as saying "well, too bad, God didn't want them to live". The latter is implying that couple is leaving it to God. The former, which is their actual statement, is hoping that everything will turn out alright, through God's hands.

They killed them every bit as much as if they had given them poison or strangled them.

There's a difference between giving your kids poision and refusing to kill a few of your kids so that a few others could live.

Again, I don't support or agree with they decided or the reason why, but I understand their reasoning, I think: If I do A, some of the kids will definitely die. If I do B, some MIGHT die, but they all might live, so I'm gonna try B and hope for the best.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:06 PM on July 2, 2007


Also, the doc who put a 24 year old couple who had only been trying a year on fertility treatments needs his/her license revoked. Absurd.

Not absurd, and this case has too many unanswered questions for you to say this definitively.

We don't know the full extent of their medical history. We don't know which tests were and were not performed prior to their diagnosis and subsequent treatment. Until we do, we cannot judge the doctor for performing procedures after the couple had been trying for a year, which is the standard amount of time (6 months to a year) that a couple would be told to wait before clinical testing for infertility. Fertility treatments (especially non-IVF treatments) work best for women in their 20's and there are conditions that *require* medical intervention for conception to occur.

Most couples need to be tested for at least two months before they begin treatment. Some tests can only be performed once ovulation has occurred. Others need to be done at various times in the woman's cycle. In a case of PCOS, neither age nor frequency of trying would matter. In severe PCOS cases, it is unlikely that any couple would conceive without assistance, if they can conceive at all without IVF.

No doctor can force a couple to selectively reduce their pregnancy. That's against the law. You cannot force a woman to receive medical treatment or to have an abortion, and selective reduction is a form of abortion. If the couple opt to carry all six to term, he can refuse to treat them but that wouldn't solve anything, either.

Did he let them know the risks? Did he discuss the side effects of the medication she was on? You don't know and neither do I. Personally, I find it hard to believe he wouldn't have. Mine certainly did.
posted by zarq at 3:20 PM on July 2, 2007


The sextuplits weren't the result of them taking fertility drugs, nope, it was just a life-changing act of God.

So God just needed a little medical help to perform the miracle. It's like He's getting old and needed a little Viagra.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:25 PM on July 2, 2007


It was just a question of what side of the vagina they were going to be killed on. Remember the doctors were pushing for selective reduction, which would have killed some of the kids. The parents weren't willing to do that, so no matter which way they turned, some of their kids were going to die

This makes it seem like the negative consequences were roughly equal in either case, which isn't even close to the truth.

In the case of selective reduction some of the kids would die, and as a result those remaining would have a vastly increased chance of living and being healthy. It would have reduced the risks to that of twins, maybe triplets, a situation that works out ok pretty often.

But what they actually did was nothing which reduced the chances of any of them surviving, and even any survivors would be looking at long term health implications.

Yes death was inevitable in both cases but one course of action would have provided a better shot at life for those remaining, whereas the other course of (in)action damned them all.

so they let nature run it's course

This seems very much like their selective faith in jesus. Don't you see something a little twisted in using an extremely unnatural method of having babies, which gave rise to a very unnatural case of uterus overcrowding, which created all kinds of problems for the potential children, and at that point taking their hands off the steering wheel and handing responsibility to god/nature/fsm?

Like it or not these people had responsibilty for their situation, they had the responsibility to take the only sensible option and they didn't. If they felt that they could never take that option they had no business messing around with fertility treatment in the first place.

That is not the same as saying "well, too bad, God didn't want them to live". The latter is implying that couple is leaving it to God. The former, which is their actual statement, is hoping that everything will turn out alright, through God's hands

Beg to differ, and will probably have to agree to disagree but when someone says they trust someone or something absolutely with the health and the very lives of the children that goes a little beyond hope. Especially seeing as they based their decisions on that very trust.

I think: If I do A, some of the kids will definitely die. If I do B, some MIGHT die, but they all might live, so I'm gonna try B and hope for the best.

I agree this was their reasoning but simply cannot understand it or see it as reasonable.

The fact is that Situation B has worked out for the best exactly one time, that is not the horse to bet your six children on, and any parent who does, frankly, shouldn't be allowed to keep pets.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 3:58 PM on July 2, 2007


“but I understand their reasoning, I think: If I do A, some of the kids will definitely die. If I do B, some MIGHT die, but they all might live, so I'm gonna try B and hope for the best.”

I understand that reasoning as well. Unfortunately that’s not the reasoning typical in these situations. It runs contrary to my own experiance as well (but that’s anecdotal) It’s more akin to: If I do A, I will lose several fetuses but the odds of the rest surviving and being healthy are vastly improved. If I do B, it is vastly unlikely they will all live, even if some of them live it is very likely they will be unhealthy. All this with imput from trained specialists advising you to do the former.
This is similar to betting your house that you will win the lottery rather than maintaining your equity or putting your money in stable long term investments. Oh, sure, I MIGHT be homeless and in tremendous insurmountable debt, but I’m going to take the chance and hope for the best. In this case the trained specialists are investment advisors and instead of allowing them to pick investments based on financial research, you allow them to pick the lottery numbers for you.
It is an inadequate matrix of decision making given the circumstances.
Had they less control over the situation and their circumstances I would say - all things being equal, leave it to chance.
Here, there is no reason to do that given the delegated expertise at their disposal.
(This is all predicated on taking them at their word in description of the circumstances)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:05 PM on July 2, 2007


Gah! Reggie Knoble beat me to much of that point.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:10 PM on July 2, 2007


"I think: If I do A, some of the kids will definitely die. If I do B, some MIGHT die, but they all might live, so I'm gonna try B and hope for the best."

I agree this was their reasoning but simply cannot understand it or see it as reasonable.


How about if you word it this way: I think, if I do A, some of the kids will definitely die, and I'll be the one killing them. If I do B, some might die, but they all might live, and I don't have to be the one to choose which ones should live and which should die.

I think that's much likelier to be an accurate reading of their motivation.
posted by me & my monkey at 4:35 PM on July 2, 2007


"I think, if I do A, some of the kids will definitely die, and I'll be the one killing them. If I do B, some might die, but they all might live, and I don't have to be the one to choose which ones should live and which should die."

Well, sure, exactly. That's an understandable way of thinking about it, humans think such things all the time. But, given the established odds that they all might live, in my opinion this is avoiding personal responsibility for the probable consequences of death.

Here's a hypothetical situation. A person has decided to do something that may cause some deaths. He's either going to put a rifle to shoulder and fire it into a room full of people - thus, he'll be actually looking down the sights at whomever he's firing upon - or, he'll toss a high-explosive grenade into the room without looking around the corner.

In neither case is anyone's death guaranteed; bullet wounds are not always fatal or even serious (and he might be a lousy shot and just miss), and an HE grenade might not even hit anyone with its case fragments if it goes off in the right place. However, I'm sure anyone would agree that the likelihood of someone being killed by either of these actions is fairly high.

In the first case, the shooter would be choosing the persons who might die. In the second case, he's leaving that part up to chance.

In both cases, the perpetrator is responsible for the deaths (and injuries) he might cause.

If this hypothetical situation was actually carried out, the key decision is the first one: the decision to do something that carries the risk of someone dying. Remember that even if this person does actually start shooting into a crowd or does actually throw a grenade... they all might live. There is a statistically significant possibility that noone in the crowd will die (a much smaller one that noone will even be hurt!).

One could see that a person could conceivably justify the action of throwing an HE grenade into a crowd on that statistical basis - "It might not kill any of them!"

It's a pretty extreme example, yes, but I'm just trying to illustrate a point.
posted by zoogleplex at 5:43 PM on July 2, 2007


Losing any child is a horrible thing to have to deal with. I can't imagine a worse punishment for any crime than to have your child taken away. Maybe, as time goes by, they will realize that they made the wrong choice, and so 4 and perhaps 6 children died because of it. Maybe they know that already, and this is why they have turned to their faith, because it is just too overwhelming for them to accept the reality of what their actions have cost them. I would hope that the option of multiples will now not be an option for them; doctors should take their reproductive history into account when considering future treatment.

Ambrosia Voyeur--You are 26, according to your profile. When you have gone through menopause and still can look back and say you never felt that urge to have a child, your opinion will carry more weight with me.
posted by misha at 6:11 PM on July 2, 2007


This makes it seem like the negative consequences were roughly equal in either case, which isn't even close to the truth.

You're right, if they to selective reduction, then they're responsible for killing one or more of their children, while if they don't, it's in God's hands. So you're right, in a way, it wasn't equal at all and they had to go with the option that didn't involve murder. They were not going to purposefully kill any of their kids. No way, no how.

Don't you see something a little twisted in using an extremely unnatural method of having babies,

What's so unnatural about it? If God meant for them to stay infertile then why were fertility treatments created? I'm not being glib, just pointing out that you and others want to condemn them for selectively choosing God over science, but who said they view things the same as your (perhaps) faulty understanding of Christianity?

they had the responsibility to take the only sensible option

You keep arguing that there is only one sensible option here, refusing to listen or understand any other line of thought, while condemning those who think and act differently. Are you a fundamentalist?


The fact is that Situation B has worked out for the best exactly one time,

Hey, it's a chance right? Medical science is getting better and better all the time, so maybe there's chance, however small, that things could work ok, or better.

that is not the horse to bet your six children on, and any parent who does, frankly, shouldn't be allowed to keep pets.

Curious, do you have kids?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:15 PM on July 2, 2007


Oh, and I found this about the mortality rate for multiples: "the perinatal mortality rate was reported to be as high as 41.6% in sextuplets", which suggests that more than one instance of sextuplets has survived.
posted by misha at 6:27 PM on July 2, 2007


31 sets of sextuplets have survived worldwide.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:47 PM on July 2, 2007


Throwing my hat into the ring briefly:

1. Losing a child is a horrific experience I wouldn't wish on anyone. And no, you can't talk to my sister about the child she lost at 8 days old, but I'll tell you this: they had almost 24 hours of thinking she was completely healthy and normal before they found out she was going to die and there was nothing they could do about it. Then seven more days to wait it out. Compared to that, selective reduction is a no-brainer.

2. There is a big difference between "Fertility treatment under expert medical care and with significant research/understanding of the risks and responsibilities involved, as an attempt to overcome what might be a relatively minor obstacle" (as with my wife and myself; once we took the step of assisted hatching, we ended up with three textbook-perfect blastocysts, two of which are sleeping in the next room right now) and "Taking fertility drugs without medical oversight and without an understanding of the risks and responsibilities." You can't really put them in the same boat; comparing them is like comparing removal of a bullet at a hospital to "I'll get drunk, we'll numb the spot with ice, then you dig the bullet out with your knife."

3. While I support the "if you can't have kids of your own, adopt" approach (we would have if the treatments hadn't worked) you have to understand that this isn't a black/white issue of "you can have kids/you can never have kids", and people shouldn't be blamed for taking steps to have their own. After all, it's not a big step from "if you can't conceive without assistance, adopt, because those kids need a home" to "If you haven't conceived yet, adopt, because those kids need a home" -- and yet I don't think anyone here would suggest that a healthy couple capable of conceiving their own child should adopt instead because it's the morally right thing to do*.

*of course, it arguably is, and personally I've thought about that a lot; we had actually discussed adopting rather than try to conceive at all for this very reason.
posted by davejay at 9:41 PM on July 2, 2007


Ambrosia Voyeur--You are 26, according to your profile. When you have gone through menopause and still can look back and say you never felt that urge to have a child, your opinion will carry more weight with me.

Huh? She didn't say that, she rejected the implication that giving birth to one's genetic offspring is somehow necessary for an individual to achieve "complete" womanhood. I'm surprised this position is controversial enough to require a waiting period of thirty years before her opinion is considered valid.
posted by lalex at 1:03 AM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm personally shocked that a woman's opinion about her own LIFE isn't valid because you think that every single woman in the world will want children. So offensive and absolutely completely false.

And yes to lalex. A woman without children is a complete woman already, no breeding necessary.
posted by agregoli at 6:35 AM on July 3, 2007


lalex and agregoli: I agree with you, it has nothing to do with making a woman "complete". However, as (assumed?) young women, you need to understand that the rise of middle-aged women who delayed childbirth and suddenly found themselves outside of typical breeding ages sometimes are expressing profound remorse and regret.

In fact, it is beginning to become a sort of "mini-epidemic" among successful independent women. The idea of being childless forever looks very different at 45 than it does at 25.

That's not to say ALL do or will regret this choice, or that any of you would. I strongly support people who choose not to reproduce, as it certainly is not for everybody. In fact, I would say a good 1/3 of people who do reproduce probably shouldn't have.

But, the problem is one of irreversibility. We don't have time machines, and if a woman finds herself at 48 and has never conceived, and is suddenly beset with strong, even overwhelming, feelings of wanting to reproduce, then it is quite likely out of reach... and even if successful requires exposing both mother and child to profoundly increased risks.

Therefore, it is a topic deserving great attention and a substantial dedication of brain resources deciding if it is something for you or not.

Take my wife for example. She went from "no kids" at 21 to "kids might be okay" at 25 to "i really want a kid" at 29. We were fortunate in being able to conceive easily and now have a perfect, yet precocious three year old boy. (I went from "no kids" at 21 to "no kids" at 25 to "no kids" at 29 to "kids might be okay" at 33 and then he was here.)

Note also this isn't sexist. I would say the same of a man, although they have much greater opportunity to breed at advanced ages as long as their partner is young.

But, be that as it may, I place more weight on a 50 year old man's opinion that "he's glad he never had kids" than a 25 year old man. Same for a woman.

It's just a matter of perspective, that's all. Nothing nefarious.

Somewhat ironically, adoption is the tool to "save the day", so to speak, for those who have gotten too old to reliably have children of their own.
posted by Ynoxas at 8:22 AM on July 3, 2007


However, as (assumed?) young women, you need to understand that the rise of middle-aged women who delayed childbirth and suddenly found themselves outside of typical breeding ages sometimes are expressing profound remorse and regret.

Saying I "need to understand" this makes me think you think I'm unaware of this phenomenon. Which leads me to feel you're being a bit condescending. Sometimes is the operative word - seeing that you're not assuming that ALL women feel regret about not breeding, that's fine. I wouldn't even say it's the vast majority though - not the ones that have made an early and firm decision to not have kids, like I have.

In fact, it is beginning to become a sort of "mini-epidemic" among successful independent women. The idea of being childless forever looks very different at 45 than it does at 25.

Shrug. I don't see why. I'm not going to go into all of my reasons to remain childfree throughout my life, but I don't see any of those reasons changing with age one bit.

Therefore, it is a topic deserving great attention and a substantial dedication of brain resources deciding if it is something for you or not.

Right - I'm not sure why you would assume I haven't made a careful decision? Is it only because I'm 27 and you think I can't make that decision at this age? If I had decided to have kids, I'm sure you wouldn't have blinked, right?

I'm not trying to be antagonistic or mean here, please don't misread my tone. I come up against that idea all the time - too young to decide NOT to have kids, but not too young to HAVE kids. It's a strange thing.

Take my wife for example. She went from "no kids" at 21 to "kids might be okay" at 25 to "i really want a kid" at 29. We were fortunate in being able to conceive easily and now have a perfect, yet precocious three year old boy. (I went from "no kids" at 21 to "no kids" at 25 to "no kids" at 29 to "kids might be okay" at 33 and then he was here.)

I don't know you or or your wife, so I have no idea how firm she was on "no kids" or what her reasons were. I am solid on my decision. I do not want kids. Ever. I'm comfortable saying that. No fear, no reservations.

But, be that as it may, I place more weight on a 50 year old man's opinion that "he's glad he never had kids" than a 25 year old man. Same for a woman.

Based on your experience, that's fair, I guess. But it's more than a little rude to me that you don't put as much stock in my opinion about *my own* breeding choices and life because I'm younger than the required age of wanting a kid.

It's just a matter of perspective, that's all. Nothing nefarious.

To assume I will have a different perspective on this very important and serious life decision that affects no one but me simply because of age is assuming a lot. I have decided. End of story. And yes, I've thought about it deeply, and yes, my husband and I continue to talk about it frequently. The answer is no. Not now, and not in 20 years.

Somewhat ironically, adoption is the tool to "save the day", so to speak, for those who have gotten too old to reliably have children of their own.

Why is it ironic? I'm missing something there.
posted by agregoli at 9:26 AM on July 3, 2007


You're right, if they to selective reduction, then they're responsible for killing one or more of their children, while if they don't, it's in God's hands. So you're right, in a way, it wasn't equal at all and they had to go with the option that didn't involve murder. They were not going to purposefully kill any of their kids. No way, no how

If they had any understanding of the risks involved then they killed the four already dead, and perhaps the two remaining children just as surely as if they had aborted them.

The difference being that the deaths now serve no purpose than to demonstrate their piss poor judgement, the deaths of selective reduction would have increased the survival chances of the others.

What's so unnatural about it?

Their plumbing didn't work until they got doctors on the case.

You can make the point that everything mankind does is only done cause god lets it, therefore everything is natural but it isn't really helpful so im going to drop it.

you and others want to condemn them for selectively choosing God over science, but who said they view things the same as your (perhaps) faulty understanding of Christianity?

These people obviously don't view everything man can do as part of gods will because they refused to undergo selective reduction on religious grounds.

And from what i have seen they use science when it suits them and god where it suits them. Maybe they aren't full of shit, but it looks fishy as hell to me.

You keep arguing that there is only one sensible option here, refusing to listen or understand any other line of thought, while condemning those who think and act differently. Are you a fundamentalist?

Yep. I also have this hardcore fundie belief that gunshot victims should seek medical assistance rather than pray really really hard for their wounds to heal.

One decision here would lead to deaths and an increased risk of further deaths, illness, disability ect. The other choice would lead to deaths with an increased chance of life and good health for the rest.

And this isn't 20/20 hindsight, this is based on the odds of survival, they must have known this and they chose to do nothing. The current situation is their fault, simple as that.

Curious, do you have kids?

Nope, but i have pets and have thus far shown better judgement in their care than the Morrisons did with their children.

I admit, the situation sucked really fucking bad, but that doesn't absolve the people involved here of their responsibilities.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 11:11 AM on July 3, 2007


agregoli: I don't think I'm misreading your tone, but I think you are mine quite a bit. I don't mean to say, or even imply, that you've not thought sufficiently about this.

I'm not trying to be condescending at all. It is of course your, and only your, decision to make. And, I would never presume to choose either way for you. For some reason you seem to think I want you to have children, when I plainly stated that I'd prefer it if a lot of people didn't have any. If you don't WANT children, then I actively DO NOT WANT you to have any.

But saying perspectives don't change over time is either incredibly naive or disingenuous. You are badly underestimating yourself if you think you are all you will ever be at 27. People change their mind on things of incredible importance ALL THE TIME. Careers. Marriages. Religion. Sexuality. Parenthood. Citizenship. Few if any of those are carved in stone for most people.

You've always struck me as bright and passionate. That actually predisposes you to change your mind about things over time, not the opposite. (Again, speaking in generalities).

When I was a teenager, I thought I knew everything. Then I realized I knew everything when I was in my early 20's. Then by my late 20's I surely had it all figured out. By early 30's there couldn't possibly be anything I hadn't figured out. By mid 30's you start to realize again how little you actually know, and how differently you view the world, and how you are likely to view it in another 20 years. I mean this in grand terms, not narrowly over children.

I had made a "firm" decision to never have kids in my teens and twenties, but over time my perspective changed. A good deal of that was due to my wife.

You seem to be so aggressively defending your position that it makes me suspicious. I'm not attacking you or your choice... I'm simply providing for the possibility that someone may change their mind after 10 or 20 years.

Consider, for a moment, if your husband suddenly had a change of heart 5 years from now, and badly wanted children. Would you still consider yourself completely unmovable? Would you say your spouse's wishes had zero influence on you? Would you be willing to divorce over that issue? Some people do.

The people who are in terrible situations are those who do have a change of heart, but have it too late. They've so forcibly clung to their earlier declarations that now they've no choice.

All I'm saying is that it remains possible that you may have a change of heart, and that it's okay if you don't, but more importantly, it's okay if you do. You seem to be taking it as some sort of indictment against your character to merely suggest you might change your mind, and I don't mean it that way at all.

I'm simply saying things change, and yes, 37 is different than 27, as impossible as that may seem to you today. Listen to the voices of experience. It doesn't mean you WILL change your mind, it just means you MIGHT.

In closing, I'm not trying to get you to change your mind. If you were 27 and said "I'm definitely having children, no doubt about it, firm decision, forever" I would warn you equally about making such a declarative statement.

I'm just wanting you to see that there exists the possibility many years from now, that after you have accomplished what you intend to accomplish, that after you have achieved whatever it is you need to achieve, there exists a risk that you may look back at your firm decision of 26 or 22 or 14 or whenever it was you made it, and say "if I only knew then what I know now".

I consider myself pretty bright and I say that at least once a week over something.

Somewhat ironically, adoption is the tool to "save the day", so to speak, for those who have gotten too old to reliably have children of their own.

Why is it ironic? I'm missing something there.


It was clumsily worded, but what I was getting at was that many women who either decide they want no children, or will consider it "later" will say "well I can always adopt" but often that is just an excuse or something to say while they may intend if they did have children, they meant to have biological children.

Then, in the solace of that statement, it turns out they wait so long that they have no other alternative but to adopt.

So, it turns out that their "failsafe" turns into their only viable strategy. That, to me, is a bit ironic.

I also feel I should point out that I am not someone who thinks that biological children are the only or proper way. I think adopting is a noble calling, and I am endlessly impressed with people that choose to do that. It is a generous act that deserves recognition.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:36 AM on July 3, 2007


But saying perspectives don't change over time is either incredibly naive or disingenuous. You are badly underestimating yourself if you think you are all you will ever be at 27. People change their mind on things of incredible importance ALL THE TIME. Careers. Marriages. Religion. Sexuality. Parenthood. Citizenship. Few if any of those are carved in stone for most people.

This is exactly what I meant when I said I felt you were being condescending. First of all, I never said perspectives don't change over time. Of course they do. However, this is a huge life decision, and again, without going into my reasons, I see absolutely no way that my mind would change about something I've thought about so carefully, thought about how I'd like my life to go. That life does not include children. Full stop. Badly underestimating myself? I think I reach too far, most of the time. Children would limit almost every hope and dream I have for myself.

You've always struck me as bright and passionate. That actually predisposes you to change your mind about things over time, not the opposite. (Again, speaking in generalities).

An odd assertion. I know myself. I do not want kids.

When I was a teenager, I thought I knew everything. Then I realized I knew everything when I was in my early 20's. Then by my late 20's I surely had it all figured out. By early 30's there couldn't possibly be anything I hadn't figured out. By mid 30's you start to realize again how little you actually know, and how differently you view the world, and how you are likely to view it in another 20 years. I mean this in grand terms, not narrowly over children.

I don't think I have it all figured out. Again, the way you're speaking about this comes across extremely condescending. I've felt that phenomenon and realized long ago that NO one ever has it "figured out."

I had made a "firm" decision to never have kids in my teens and twenties, but over time my perspective changed. A good deal of that was due to my wife.

Again, impossible to really know, is it? You don't my reasons and thoughts about it and I don't know how you felt. Perhaps you were never really "firm" about it to begin with, you know?

You seem to be so aggressively defending your position that it makes me suspicious. I'm not attacking you or your choice... I'm simply providing for the possibility that someone may change their mind after 10 or 20 years.

It's because I'm goddamn irritated that people feel the need to harp on the "change your mind" possibility. Duh. It's a freaking possibility, because everything is in life. I'm not sure why that needs to be pointed out to someone who's decided they don't want kids. No one ever says to someone who wants kids, "Oh, you might change your mind and give that up. Soon you might wonder why you wanted them at all!" I know my own mind. I don't want kids.

Consider, for a moment, if your husband suddenly had a change of heart 5 years from now, and badly wanted children. Would you still consider yourself completely unmovable? Would you say your spouse's wishes had zero influence on you? Would you be willing to divorce over that issue? Some people do.

We've talked about that. You don't need to provide "all the angles" for me. Surprisingly, I and my husband are mature enough and have thought about it deeply both for ourselves and with each other and come to our conclusion.

All I'm saying is that it remains possible that you may have a change of heart, and that it's okay if you don't, but more importantly, it's okay if you do. You seem to be taking it as some sort of indictment against your character to merely suggest you might change your mind, and I don't mean it that way at all.

Well, you're wrong about that. Rather, I'm insulted that you need to suggest it, as if I haven't considered the possibility. Ah, she's so young and foolish, she doesn't even think she might change her mind! I'd better tell her. I KNOW it's ok if I do. Why wouldn't it be? It's my life.

I'm simply saying things change, and yes, 37 is different than 27, as impossible as that may seem to you today.

There's that condescenion again. Ah, the young folly - you'll learn some things in 10 years!

Listen to the voices of experience. It doesn't mean you WILL change your mind, it just means you MIGHT.

Why the need to express that, and so many times? It makes ME suspicious of YOU.

In closing, I'm not trying to get you to change your mind. If you were 27 and said "I'm definitely having children, no doubt about it, firm decision, forever" I would warn you equally about making such a declarative statement.

I really doubt that.

I'm just wanting you to see that there exists the possibility many years from now, that after you have accomplished what you intend to accomplish, that after you have achieved whatever it is you need to achieve, there exists a risk that you may look back at your firm decision of 26 or 22 or 14 or whenever it was you made it, and say "if I only knew then what I know now".

Which you've said several times. It's no less insulting now.

Enough. I'm done. Please, no more platitudes or words of wisdom, oh wise one.
posted by agregoli at 12:00 PM on July 3, 2007


(or, if you must, take it to email so there is no more derailment, thanks).
posted by agregoli at 12:02 PM on July 3, 2007


Wow. Get down off the fucking cross already, St. Agregoli Gran Martyr of the Childless.

I went out of my way to try to explain my thoughts and went WAY beyond the call of duty to try to prevent offense, and yet you are reaching, nay STRIVING, to find alternate meanings and ulterior motives.

Enough indeed.
posted by Ynoxas at 12:35 PM on July 3, 2007


Oh, and normally I would consider this to be a cheap shot, but your total lack of civility has merited it.

Note that at least as recently as June of 2005 you were still apparently open to the idea of having children.

Now that I have the last word in, like you attempted to do, feel free to take it to email.
posted by Ynoxas at 12:46 PM on July 3, 2007


wtf? Cheap shot, indeed.
posted by lalex at 1:06 PM on July 3, 2007


(thanks, lalex)

Ambrosia Voyeur--You are 26, according to your profile. When you have gone through menopause and still can look back and say you never felt that urge to have a child, your opinion will carry more weight with me.

misha: Did you seriously just say my beliefs about womanhood are invalid compared to yours based on my age? The only opinions I expressed were about my being a total woman as I am and non-reproduction being different from imprisonment.

I "feel that urge" constantly, with my brillant partner of five years and my steady income and supportive family and good health and family history of easy pregnancy and birth and all the traditional indicators of babytime blinking in my hormonal dashboard, and I am prepared to cope with that the rest of my life. I'm hoping to foster some kids someday. My life will not be determined by my biology. I'll keep you posted.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:06 PM on July 3, 2007


I've just now read the 21-25-29-33 discussion above, and all I can say is I'm hoping it doesn't get me, and that teaching, fostering and being close to family children will provide the nurturing, life sharing and legacy creating needs it seems women sometimes experience. I figure it is an uphill battle, and you gotta have a plan to remain happy.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:11 PM on July 3, 2007


Then it's settled: agregoli, you're havin kids, and lots of 'em. No..., no point in arguing. Ynoxas beat you fair and square.

Might I suggest a little Follistim to help things along?
posted by LordSludge at 1:16 PM on July 3, 2007


I've just now read the 21-25-29-33 discussion above, and all I can say is I'm hoping it doesn't get me.

Hmmm, really? I actually do want kids one day, but that discussion makes me worry that there's something about the act that will compel me to treat my childfree/childless/infertile friends with the condescension that can only come from achieving the pinnacle of womanhood.
posted by lalex at 1:47 PM on July 3, 2007


Did you seriously just say my beliefs about womanhood are invalid compared to yours based on my age?

No, no and no. Only that you might change your mind with age, and Ynoxas said it all much better than I did.

The only opinions I expressed were about my being a total woman as I am and non-reproduction being different from imprisonment.

Yes, and I am in the wrong here for the way I worded my comment. I had a much longer comment about how of course it isn't necessary to have a child to feel fulfilled, and it's great that you feel that way, but you shouldn't be dismissive of women who want to have children either. The problem is that in shortening the comment I made, I sounded snarky instead.

Sorry for the derailment.
posted by misha at 4:28 PM on July 3, 2007


but you shouldn't be dismissive of women who want to have children either.

Show me where I did that and I'll go apologize to my mother.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:34 PM on July 3, 2007


The Morrisons didn't do anything illegal. It was foolish, dumb, short-sighted, probably greedy and irrational, but it wasn't illegal.

What does that have to do with anything? Seems like the kind of thing people would make illegal if it wasn't for all the culture of life bullshit. (That is, it should be illegal to allow more then 3 or 4 fetuses to fully gestate after taking fertility treatments) I mean Female Genital Mutilation isn't illegal in a lot of countries, that doesn't mean it's not as wrong in those countries as it is here.

I'm sure it's illegal to cram 6 infants into a small container.
posted by delmoi at 1:11 PM on July 4, 2007


Reggie,
We're gonna have to agree to disagree. It's been a good conversation, but we're just repeating our positions in various ways and no ones budging.

Thanks for the thoughtful conversation though and not bringing it down to name calling.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:47 PM on July 4, 2007



What does that have to do with anything?


You were comparing an illegal act (shaking a kid till it dies) with a legal act (the sextuplets). I was pointing out there is difference.

I'm sure it's illegal to cram 6 infants into a small container.

Carrying sex kids to term isn't illegal. A womb is not a small container.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:51 PM on July 4, 2007


What does that have to do with anything? Seems like the kind of thing people would make illegal if it wasn't for all the culture of life bullshit.

Never gonna happen.

It's my understanding that with IUI, fertility drugs increase the chances of twins to about 33%. Chance of triplets depends on the drug combinations used, but varies between less than 1% and about 9%. With regard to IVF, the chances of having a higher multiple than twins when only two embryos are implanted is under 1%.

The only two ways I can see "this kind of thing" being made illegal are:

1) Banning fertility drugs. Since they only have a single digit percentage probability of provoking a triplet or higher multiple pregnancy in an IUI, this would unfairly punish the vast majority of couples with infertility problems.

I realize that's not what you're proposing, but thought I'd mention it off the bat as a non-starter.

2) Make selective reduction mandatory for anyone carrying triplets (or higher multiples,) after fertility treatments.

This is also a non-starter. It opens up an ethical can of worms by forcing women to have a form of abortion that carries with it a 5% risk of miscarriage.

And yes, the latter issue would be far more complex than "culture of life" arguments. In fact, it would most likely provoke a nasty reaction from the pro-choice movement, which is based on the concept that women should be allowed control over their own bodies so that they can make a choice of whether or not to have a baby (or babies, as the case may be).

Any sort of legislation proposing a limit on the number of fetuses a woman can carry to term would be attacked by pro-choicers as a limitation on their rights.

I'm sure it's illegal to cram 6 infants into a small container.

A womb has a specific function: to incubate fetuses and bring them to term.

The moment the government begins to tell women it knows better than they do how they should have children, there will be a backlash.
posted by zarq at 8:47 AM on July 5, 2007


Having just seen Sicko, I am amazed that insurance companies allow couples to do this. Fertility treatments are expensive. The health toll it takes on the mother is expensive. All the time spent on bed rest, often in the hospital, is expensive. The multiple teams needed at the delivery of several babies is expensive. The neonatal intensive care required by several babies is very expensive. If the babies survive, they are likely to have developmental problems due to premature birth (not necessarily mental development problems, but just not being finished growing before birth), and those developmental problems will require even more expensive health care. I would venture that insurance companies pay out millions of dollars in cases like this. How on earth can that be, when so many people in this country are denied for illnesses like cancer, or cannot even get coverage due to pre-existing conditions like diabetes?
posted by etoile at 2:19 AM on July 8, 2007


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