Sunday, March 01, 2009


Many readers have e-mailed to ask whether I thought it ethical for Nadya Suleman, a California mother of six, to receive fertility treatments that resulted in her giving birth to octuplets.

Given the wide variety of opinions coming in, I put the questions to my readers: Was there anything wrong with Suleman's decision to have the procedure? Was it wrong for her doctor to implant six eggs, two of which later split, in one woman, or should this be a private decision between a mother and her doctor? Does it matter to your response that the mother is unmarried? Does it make a difference if the children may depend at least in part on public assistance?

Post your thoughts here by clicking on "comments" or "post a comment" below. Please include your name, hometown, and state, province, or country. Readers' comments may appear in an upcoming column. Or e-mail your comments to me at

You can also respond to the four polls with these questions that will appear on the right-hand side of the blog until polling is closed.

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business (Smith Kerr, 2006), is an associate professor at Emerson College in Boston, where he teaches writing and ethics. He is also the administrator of The Right Thing, a Web log focused on ethical issues.

Do you have ethical questions that you need answered? Send them to or to "The Right Thing," The New York Times Syndicate, 500 Seventh Avenue, 8th floor, New York, NY 10018. Please remember to tell me who you are, where you're from, as well as where you read the column.

c.2009 The New York Times Syndicate (Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate)


Anonymous said...

Okay, Jeffrey, you asked. Every thing about the "Octo-mom" issue turns my stomach. Having litters of babies as a publicity stunt - why should we be surprised? Remember, it was her agent who addressed the media even before she did. No job, no husband, no money - gosh, I wonder how she expected to support - now 14 of them? Oh, that's right - she had the internet, network, and cable news paying her big bucks for interviews - as intended! I'm wondering how much the still unnamed fertility doctor is getting - and who paid for those treatments? As for that crock about how much she loves children, she could have been a child care provider or a kindergarten teacher - any number of ways she could have actually helped existing children without bringing 14 of them into ridiculous circumstances. It's beyond outrageous, but it seems as though outrageous is now the norm. What next? Close-up colonoscopies on You Tube?

Anonymous said...

Octo-mom is quoted as saying that she will return to school soon using a student loan. Doesn't one first have to qualify for a student loan? And, wouldn't that loan be predicated on one's ability to repay the loan? I don't believe that she's in a position to assume any of this will automatically be granted her.

Cindy B said...

Wow is all I can say. Having children is not a God given right but a blessing and a priveledge. Parent(s) should not bring a child into the world unless they have the wherewithal to appropriately care, nurture and raise them. This confused woman needs to be neutered immediately just as someone with Munchhousen should. These 8 new children should be removed and given to other families, not even sure if the first 6 should be allowed to remain with her. Obviously she never learned growing up that actions have consequences but she needs to now. Not have Dr. Phil and others setting up donations sites so other people can take over the time and financial responsibilities for caring for her offspring. The children are not to blame for her actions but need to be given a better opportunity in life than what she is giving them. Some have compared her to Angelina Jolie which is just silly. Angelina is saving orphans and has the funds and assistants to provide and care for her children so they will grow up to be well balanced contributing adults. I'm counting that this "Dr." has already has his licensed revoked. Last time I checked Student Loans were supposed to be for such silly things as school, tuition, books? Not for feeding a bunch of kids and paying for making more. Again I am praying that these loans have been called due and payable. There are too many ethical and hard working individuals out there that need these types of loans and won't abuse the system like she seems to be able to. People like this will not learn unless they are forced to. I have an extended family member who has not only not raised her one child, managed to screw him up but now is pregnant again. She's never had to learn this as the family always stepped in and did what she should have had to do. Finally I hope the children will be well and that they get removed from her and her media circus as soon as possible.

Anonymous said...

She's receiving government aide for three of her children, so she must expect the tax payers to help support the new children. Six/eight children at once must have major health problems. Isn't that child abuse?

Anonymous said...

The doctor who implanted those eggs bears greatest responsibility for HIS decisions -- mother is/was mentally incapable of raising her initial 6 children. Surely the doctor tested/examined Octo-Mom? Doctor is unethical, period. Let's allow him to support 8 more lives?

Quirkybutsmart said...

OK, I get that people are upset about this. and this is upsetting on many levels. But the DOCTOR is the one who violated ethics-- the mother violated, possibly, morals, religious doctrines, cultural norms and maybe even the requirements (such as they are)of mental health, and she may be endangering the children.

But this is not precisely ethics. Per Encarta: "a system of moral principles governing the appropriate conduct for a person or group."

This word "governing" assumes some degree of agreement. We lack that, here, in most aspects of this. People who are unfit parents are permitted to procreate in all circumstances in this country.

We can feel this is wrong , but we cannot force sterilization in this country. Barbara C is right-- the doctor blew it. BIG TIME. But I am guessing he got many dollars. Sad.

Sergeant Major's Daughter said...

In-vitro has a place for couples unable to get pregnant. Once they have a child, I personally believe that it should not be offered again. And it should not be available to a single mom who already has a child.

We are already "playing God" - Doesn't it ever occur to people that there may be a higher spiritual reason they are not conceiving?

Just because the ego wants a child doesn't mean it has to happen, at often extreme costs to many involved. Psychological analysis should be required for this process since it is reversing a natural state (of inability to conceive/bear children).

alohameme said...

Octomom, and I call her that whether she likes it or not because that is what she is. It's not natural to have eight kids after having six. Back in the old days they had them because they didn't have birth control. Now they have birth control and the people who can't have any end up having too many. Go figure, but this mom has worked against the odds and now wants acceptance. Why? Why does she want to be left alone when she is the very same person who created this dilemma? Money was the key, but she didn't bargain for the celebrity status, even if many do hate her and not like her. I say she is just a naive young woman who needs to grow up and surely get her tubes tied. Perhaps after that she needs a bit of psychotherapy because loving 14 children is quite easy for a teacher in a classroom, but not a mother who has to feed, cloth and take care of them until they live their own lives.