The curious case of Nadya Suleman and her miraculous delivery of octuplets is unfolding in the sort of dramatic fashion that suggests this story is more than just passing fodder for the daytime talk shows.
As suspicion around the octuplets' in vitro conception grows, Suleman's story bears all the characteristics of an event that alters history. Like Terry Schiavo's right to die case and the Columbine massacre that shook parents' faith in school safety, the Suleman babies have sparked a dialogue, becoming as much cultural conversation as personal story.
News last month that an unnamed California woman had for the second time ever given birth to eight living babies at once had all the makings of a TV movie. It was a feel good, human interest story that celebrated the marvels of modern medicine and tapped into a national obsession with multiple births celebrated in pop culture like on the reality show "John and Kate Plus Eight."
But shortly after people got over the initial shock, they started asking questions. At first the questions were of the small and head-scratching variety. But during the last three weeks -- as more has been learned about Suleman's personal life (she is unmarried and has six other children reportedly being raised by her parents) and her doctor, who reportedly transplanted seven embryos into another California woman currently pregnant with quadruplets -- the questions have become bigger.
The case raises a host of important questions like: Should doctors be allowed to implant a woman with eight embryos? And should a bankrupt state pick up $2.5 million in hospital bills for the woman if she has no money?
Those questions may very well be the sparks that lead to a national debate about privacy, reproductive health and government regulation.
Suleman has yet to make the switch from buzzy story of the month to significant story that influences the collective consciousness and national policy, but she appears on the right track.
News makes the jump to history not when it gets old, but when it enters the public consciousness and generates opinion, possibly even change.
The individuals in the list that follows all started out as chatter around the water cooler but became cultural landmarks during the last 25 years.
In the early 1980s, AIDS was a little understood and largely reviled disease that had predominantly afflicted the gay community.
When Ryan White, a 13-year-old hemophiliac, contracted HIV through a contaminated blood transfusion and was expelled from his middle school, the face of the disease and the country's reaction changed in a matter of months.
In June 1985, White was expelled from his Indiana middle school. It was more than a year, several court cases and public relations blitz later before the teenager was readmitted.
White's story placed a spotlight on an epidemic President Reagan and others had chosen largely to ignore, and it forced the public to acknowledge the scope of the disease and better understand what had caused it to spread.
White's story led to increased media attention -- news stories about AIDS doubled between 1985 and 1987 -- and led to other well-known people going public about their own infections.
In August 1990, four months after Ryan died at age 18, Congress passed the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act, the largest federally funded program to provide care for people living with HIV/AIDS.