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article imageOctuplet's Doctor Now Under Investigation

By Joan Firstenberg     Feb 6, 2009 in Health
The fertility doctor who helped a California woman to have 14 children, including the octuplets that were born last month, is now facing an investigation by the California Medical Board.
When 33-year old Nadya Suleman gave birth to six boys and two girls on January 26, everyone reacted with surprise, some with delight, but there were questions, and plenty of them. It took several days until we finally learned that Suleman lived in Whittier, California and was a divorced single mother of six children already waiting at home.
Now, the Medical Board of California, which is not identifying the doctor who helped Suleman, is looking into the case. Board spokeswoman Candis Cohen said Friday,
"We're looking into the matter to see if we can substantiate if there was a violation of the standard of care."
Suleman appeared Friday on NBC's "Today" show, and said that the same fertility specialist provided in vitro fertilization for all of her 14 children using sperm donated by a friend. She also told the interviewer that six embryos were implanted for each of her pregnancies. And in the latest insemination, two of Suleman's embryos split, resulting in the two sets of twins among the octuplets. But there are questions as to why so many embryos were implants. To which Suleman replies....
"Those are my children, and that's what was available and I used them. So, I took a risk. It's a gamble. It always is."
There are no laws in the U.S. that dictate the number of embryos that can be placed in a mother's womb. But doctors say the the usual number implanted is two or three embryos in most women of Suleman's age. Arthur Caplan, a bioethics chairman at the University of Pennsylvania says,
"The revelation about one center treating her makes the treatment even harder to understand. They went ahead when she had six kids, knowing that she was a single mom ... and put embryos into her anyway."
Suleman's octuplets were born prematurely and are expected to stay in the hospital for several more weeks. Her six other children are between ages 2 and 7.
Suleman said she had never been on welfare and would find a way to get by with the help of family, friends and her church. She said she planned to return to school in the fall.
In state documents, Suleman is recorded as telling a doctor she had three miscarriages. But another doctor disputes that number, saying she had two ectopic pregnancies, a dangerous condition in which a fertilized egg implants somewhere other than in the uterus.
The documents describe Suleman becoming pregnant with her first child after a 1999 injury during a riot at a state mental hospital where she worked. Suleman feared she would lose the child and sunk into an intense depression, according to a psychological evaluation in her workers' compensation case.
Documents disclosed to the Associated Press reveal that Suleman collected more than $165,000 in disability payments between 2002 and 2008 for a work-related injury, which she claimed had left her in near-constant pain, and helped to end her marriage.
She said during her "Today" interview....
"All I wanted was children. I wanted to be a mom. That's all I ever wanted in my life. I love my children."
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