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Sunday, February 01, 2009

The world hasn't gone mad but this woman and her doctor may have

Alan Bennett famously said "All families have a secret. The secret is they're not like other families". Too true. I wonder what he'd say about Nadya Suleman, the mother of the Los Angeles octuplets. As this woman recovers in her hospital bed and negotiates with America's biggest magazines and TV shows, fragments of information emerge about her personal circumstances.

We start with the most remarkable of all. She's not on welfare. Which is pretty remarkable when you consider she's already got six children, doesn't work, has recently completed her studies into child development and lives with her mother who is divorced and recently fended off personal bankruptcy. Mother says Nadya has always been "nuts about children". Move on. She had the previous six children by in vitro fertilisation. The father was not her husband. She was recently divorced from him. He's gone to work as contractor in Iraq. Move on.

So then there's the next eight children. I'm a bit hazy about how these things work but one must assume that at some point she went along to a medical professional and said "You know the six kids I've already got? Well, I'm so tickled with them I'd like some more." And one must assume that the medical professional said "Of course. Let's try eight, shall we?"

There's an entire book to be written about how this comes to pass in a country where most people dread having to go into a hospital, not because of the MRSA but because of the cost. Anyway, the cab driver side of my brain sides with Arthur Caplan, a bioethics expert from the University of Pennsylvania, when he says "anyone who transfers eight embryos should be arrested for malpractice." I might add that my wife always says "some women have children to give love, some have children to get love." Well, she shouldn't go short with fourteen of them.

I don't know what all this means. Oh, hang on, I do. As Paul Simon pointed out years ago in song, some folks lives roll easy, some folks stumble and fall through no fault of their own. What he should have pointed out in a final verse is that some folks have a deep seated desire to make their lives more complicated than they already are. And these are infallibly people whose lives are already very, very complicated.