The octuplets: How many kids are too many?

The good news of a successful delivery of octuplets was dampened once it became known that the mother, Nadya Suleman, already had six young children at home.

“Eight is more than enough,” said Meghan Daum in the Chicago Tribune. Last week’s news that Nadya Suleman, 33, had given birth to eight healthy babies was broken by “grinning doctors” at a California hospital who seemed to want medals for their accomplishment, “but this should not be a cause for celebration.” What started as a feel-good human-interest story “quickly curdled into an ethical morass,” said Sarah Hepola in, as it emerged that Suleman is not only unmarried and unemployed—inconvenient, when your annual diaper bill alone is $7,000—but has six children already. Certainly it’s impressive that doctors were able to implant eight, in-vitro fertilized embryos in Suleman’s womb. Less clear is whether they were right to do so, especially given the obvious questions about Suleman’s mental well-being. As her own mother put it, Nadya “is not evil, but she is obsessed with children.”

Does that really make her crazy? said Brian Reid in Granted, most of us wouldn’t want 14 kids, but it’s not my job—or yours—to decide on “an acceptable number” for some other person. Like all of us, Suleman should be free to make her own reproductive decisions. Sure, she has many sleepless nights and long, difficult days ahead of her, said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial. But Suleman can also look forward to “a houseful of playing, laughter, learning, and, in a month or so, eight first smiles.” It’s a sad truth about our society that we’re far quicker to find fault with someone’s eccentric lifestyle choice “than to think that perhaps it will turn out to be simply extraordinary.”

Suleman’s life decisions are her own business, said Elmer Smith in the Philadelphia Daily News, but society has a right to question “what appears to be collusion on the part of medical personnel.” When a mother of six young children who has no husband or job walks into an IVF clinic and demands to be impregnated with multiple embryos, surely the doctor has an ethical obligation to ask questions about her mental state and financial circumstances. Suleman’s doctors let her down, said Mona Charen in National Review, and “so did her society, by treating childbearing as a kind of self-expression.” Too many of us now see making babies as just another part of our right to pursue happiness, without regard to marital or financial stability or the lives these babies are likely to lead. “Badly done all around.”

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