Friday, June 22, 2007

God's will?

This June 12, 2007 a rare event visited the United States, rare even within the world. Two sets of sextuplets were born within 10 hours of each other to parents in Arizona and Minnesota. Both sets were born prematurely, the Masche set of three boys and three girls were born after just 30 weeks of pregnancy, the Morrison's four boys and two girls after only 22 weeks. Unfortunately Bennet, Tryg and Lincoln Morrison have not survived and their surviving siblings remain in critical condition in the neonatel intensive care unit at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis.

The Morrison infants are considered "extremely premature" being 22 weeks or less and according to the American Medical Association have a 1 to 10 percent of surviving. Infants born at 25 weeks have better odds of between 50 to 80 percent and those who are born after 30 weeks have a better than 90 percent chance of surviving.

Both the Morrison's and the Masche's used fertility drugs to assist in their pregnancies. The life-long problems that a multiple birth child can face along with the life-threatening risks to both the mother and the child, have some in the medical profession questioning the wisdom of "fertility on demand." I also have to question it for several reasons. I can understand a little more easily the grounds for the Masche's choice since at age 32, Jenny Masche is facing the inevitable biological slowdown associated with age. I still can't fathom what would cause a 24 year old woman such as Brianna Morrison to resort to fertility drugs after only one year of trying to become pregnant.

"Maybe if God wants to, He can reduce them on His own, but I know this is not something that we can do," said Jenny Masche.

Both families were approached by their doctors after it was found that they were expecting six children, that they had the option of "selective reduction" to reduce the risk to the remaining children. Both families declined, choosing instead to place the decision "in God's hands." I can understand that this may not be an acceptable alternative for many but both couples also had the option of testing before they became pregnant to see how many eggs had been released that particular month. In a case of numerous eggs, they would have had the option then to wait for a month when there was less of a chance of such a large pregnancy.

"It's always an interesting situation when people rely on modern medicine and talk about God's will -- because if it were simply God's will, then you'd say, if you're not becoming pregnant, that must be God's will," stated USC's Alexander Capron.

Capron, the professor of law and medicine at the University of Southern California and renowned bioethicist also co-chairs the Pacific Center for Health policy and Ethics at USC. I can agree with his beliefs that some people will feel that it is God's will to use medical interventions to become parents but that the risks from such pregnancies should outweigh the need to become parents.

While he believes adoption is a very viable solution for couples who want to become parents, he would never advocate legislating a person's parenting options. There are a lot of children out there, waiting to be adopted, who need parents. If the reasoning behind using artificial means to become a biological parent and only a parent in that way, then i have to question what their real needs are.

"If what you are saying is: 'I want to pass on my genes, which are very special to me and the world, and the only way to do that is to reproduce biologically, rather than the act of parenting,' I sympathize with that but I am not one who believes you should run the risks to do it," stated Capron.

I hope that the debate continues about the ever increasing use of fertility drugs both in public forums and within the numerous comments to blogs. If the need to be a parent is so strong as to put aside the related risks, I wonder what the real need is there. Adoption is very acceptable now as shown by the numerous celebrities adopting in recent years and they are no less a parent for not being their children's "biological" parents.

Couples may look to multiple sets of children who have survived early births, some with no problems, others who have serious medical problems and still use the fact that they survived as a basis for their attempting the same. I find it a poor excuse for having children suffer minute by minute to leave that survival in God's hands. With all the options available to the Morrisons especially, at their young age, the rush to conceive after only one year of trying I do not believe was warrented and I have to question the doctors who made it possible for them. I am sorry that they will be facing what could be months of watching their remaining children struggle to live and grow, these will be very tough times for such a young couple. I don't believe though it is God's will that they are where they are now. The science they used to conceive them could also have been used to significantly reduce the risks.

Update: In a sad update to the continued struggles of the remaining Morrison sextuplets, Saturday morning, June 23 2007, Cadence lost her fight for life. The remaining two Morrison children, Sylas and Lucia, are still in critical condition in the neonatal intensive care unit at Children's Hospital.

Update Oct 23 2014:

Sylas, the only surviving sextuplet is now more than five years old.  He suffers from cerebral palsy which is common among babies born prematurely.  He still receives injections to help loosen his muscles and surgeries to help increase his mobility and posture.  He does seem to be enjoying the carefree life that all children should enjoy in a loving home.

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