Should having sextuplets through fertility treatments be allowed?
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By now you may have heard about the Vancouver area woman who gave birth to sextuplets over the weekend. The babies were born 15 weeks early at under 2 pounds each.
Babies born between 23-25 weeks premature are in a very fragile state, with organs developing outside the mother's womb through extreme medical intervention. I can only imagine the stress on this family, having six babies born at this critical stage.
The whole thing raises many issues. Since the chances of naturally conceiving sextuplets is one in several billion, it's likely that these babies were conceived using fertility treatments. In Canada, our high taxes would pay for the babies to be treated in a neonatal intensive care facillity. It's something I personally learned to appreciate, when my son spent over a week in the NICU after his birth, for symptoms related to a prenatal stroke. (This heartbreaking photo is of my full-term giant covered in tubes. Can you imagine something six babies the size of your palm?) At an average of $1000 to $2000 CDN a day, care like this would burden new parents with huge debt on top of their grief over the situation.
But what about cases like this? A fertility clinic would have urged the mother to terminate some of the viable embryos -- a difficult choice for anyone to make. Yet six babies showed up over the weekend. Now the taxpayer will fork out almost a million dollars, assuming all six are lucky enough to make it home. (On average, preemies of this age spend 100 days in hospital.) Once home, these babies may face all sorts of difficulties, from blindness to breathing problems. If the government wasn't around to help, would this family have even considered having all six children? It's tough to say.
When do we as a society intervene? How far is too far when it comes to medical intervention? I touched on this before and incited great debate. The conflict between religious principles and science often come out of these discussions. I think it's important to note that the family are Jehovah's witnesses and have asked for privacy. I know many people will say it's in God's hands, but fertility treatments are in doctor's hands. Who takes responsibility for the difficult lives these children will face? The amount of work and struggle this family must now deal with? I think it's important to spark up a conversation on these matters and get people thinking about the choices out there, and the potential consequences thereof.
Regardless of my conflicting feelings on this subject, I do pray for this family and hope that they make it through this tough time. I remember how 9 days in the hospital felt like 9 years. I hope the little babies make it through the next few weeks and home to their loving parents.