At What Cost?

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costsUpdated Friday a.m.

I’m troubled. Sickened, actually. When did drugs/treatment intended for infertility become recreational options for people with children? This story gets weirder by the minute.

You’ll find a great discussion taking place in the comments section…

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Down south in Los Angeles, a team of doctors were involved in the headline grabbing delivery of eight babies – octuplets. At last count there were nearly 3,500 octuplets stories searchable online.  Information is sketchy. We don’t know what type of fertility treatment may have been involved — if any, but it’s pretty hard to imagine there wasn’t some clinical involvement.

We who have had to confront the complex decisions associated with treating infertility each have our own comfort zones and end points. There is no “one size fits all” to treatment.  That’s because we all have differing emotional, physical, financial and, for some, religious forces or pressures guiding our actions, dictating how far we’re willing to go in pursuit of creating a family.

The costs involved are enormous — and they’re not just financial.  Among the many questions we wrestled with: What’s the cost to our relationship? The cost to my health and well being? To the health and well being of any children conceived? It’s one thing to make decisions involving your own life, it’s quite another when your decisions involve other lives — and other people’s resources.

Despite my sometimes irrational, primal longing to conceive and the effects of powerful hormones, the gravity of the many fertility treatment implications were not lost on me.

In this latest case, there are significant costs to consider, not the least of which is the developmental impact on the newborns. Given the visibility or notoriety  (take your pick) of this eye-popping delivery there’s also a cost to society.  You gotta wonder who is picking up the tab? Just what is the price tag associated with the army of doctors involved across three delivery rooms and the acute care that will be required in these all important early days — provided by, yes, another army of healthcare professionals. Who bears those costs? Given that most fertility treatment and care is out of pocket, I know a number of people who would like to have had their bill paid, but didn’t have (or see) that as an option and altered plans accordingly.

Finally, it’s not like the perceptions that exist around people who pursue fertility treatment  weren’t seriously jaded already. Sigh. This latest episode will make it that much harder to de-freakify the infertility topic. In many ways, this case has set the infertility world back 30 years by focusing the world’s attention on what amounts to a birthing circus act.  This is not infertility treatment circa 1978. It’s 2009. There are ultrasound machines and more than enough ways to determine the risk and potential for extreme multiple birth outcomes.

I worry not only for the eight babies (and the rumored six siblings they’ll join), I also worry for those in the infertile community still  trying to navigate what are already treacherous waters. The stigma around treating infertility was hard enough before this story grabbed center stage.  I fear it will send infertile couples deeper into the woodwork for fear of being tarred with the same brush of what could arguably be called in this instance, irresponsibility.

I sure hope we don’t encourage or endorse this unusual outcome with sponsorships and more super-sized family reality shows.  The kids involved will have it tough enough without becoming an even bigger media spectacle.

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