Birth of Octuplets Puts Focus on Fertility Clinics

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The birth of octuplets to a California woman who already had six children, all fourteen via IVF, has drawn strong criticism from both the medical and ethics communities. In the United States, the $1 billion assisted reproductive technology industry results in more than 50,000 babies per year. A third of these are "multiple births," twins or higher. These children are at elevated risk for a variety of health problems.

The article highlights the tension between patients, physicians, and insurance companies. Patients naturally want a child, physicians want to maximize their success rates but minimize the possibility of multiple births, and insurance companies often won't pay for the procedure. With the cost of IVF at $10,000 per attempt, doctors are under pressure from patients to implant multiple embryos at once.

Though voluntary professional guidelines recommend implanting only two embryos per attempt, this was obviously not followed in the California octuplets case. Some have also argued that the physician should have declined to treat a single woman who already had six children.

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