Octuplet Birth to Single Mom of Six Sparks Debate

While the now-famous California octuplets cry from time to time in their hospital beds, a host of medical and ethical experts are raising questions over the extraordinary births.

The octuplets' grandmother Angela Suleman told The Los Angeles Times that her daughter had a fertility treatment last year in which the eight embryos were implanted, touching off a firestorm over the extreme treatment and its implications both for the mother and the children

"Anyone who transfers eight embryos should be arrested for malpractice," University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Arthur Caplan told ABC News.


"[Experts] would be astounded if a fertility specialist actually implanted eight eggs," ABC News medical contributor Dr. Tim Johnson said. "Current guidelines, which are guidelines, not law, would suggest between one and four. … A vast majority of experts would say that [implanting eight] is bad practice."

According to Suleman, when the woman learned that she was carrying multiple babies, she opted not to reduce the number of embryos even though she was already the mother of six children.

"What do you suggest she should have done? She refused to have them killed. That is a very painful thing," Suleman told the Times.

Studies have shown that the tendency toward prematurity and low birth weight in multiple-birth babies puts them at greater risk for a variety of complications, including respiratory problems at birth, cerebral palsy, birth defects, sensory disorders and even death. These risks increase as the number of babies in the multiple birth increases.

On Monday, the unidentified woman gave birth to the eight babies in five minutes.

Fertility experts have been extremely critical of such high-risk births, which can threaten the life of the mother and lead to myriad health problems for the infants.

"We dodged a bullet here," said Dr. Anne Drapkin Lyerly, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University.

When the babies come home, they are expected to join their six other brothers and sisters as well as their grandparents in the family's three-bedroom home. According to neighbors, the mother is single and in her 30s.

An 87-year-old woman who lives next door was not at all pleased.

"With our economy they way it is, with California going to hell in a handbasket, why should I be excited about this?" she asked ABC News' Mike Von Fremd. "What is their future?"

Octuplets' Family 'Ecstatic'

But according to a statement by the octuplets' mother, joy overshadowed criticism.

"My family and I are ecstatic about all of their arrivals," the statement read.

"When the mom came in and she touches the babies, you can see the expression on the face, the expression on their body that they are very happy about it," Dr. Mandhir Gupta, a neonatalogist who was part of the 46-person delivery team, said during a news conference.

Von Fremd visited the home of the woman, who lives with her parents on a quiet cul-de-sac in the Los Angeles suburbs. With none of the typical joyful markings of a new arrival -- balloons, storks, flowers -- visible, the family and most immediate neighbors wanted nothing to do with the media.

"Do us a favor, give us our privacy and get out, shame on you, shame on you," a man from inside the house screamed at Von Fremd.

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