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Birth of Octuplets Spurs Debate

December 23, 1998

HOUSTON (AP) _ The births of the world’s first surviving octuplets just a year after septuplets were born in Iowa has renewed the medical community’s debate over the use of fertility drugs.

``Who benefits from eight?,″ Paul Neumann, an assistant professor at Harvard University’s School of Public Health, said Tuesday. ``Nobody views eight as a success.″

Nkem Chukwu (nih-KEHM chuhk-WOO) gave birth Sunday to seven children after having a daughter Dec. 8. All eight babies remained in critical condition Tuesday.

As more and more couples turn to fertility assistance, many say they the increased probability of having at least one child is worth risking the odds of having a multiple birth.

A Saudi woman gave birth to three girls and four boys in January, and the McCaughey septuplets were born in Iowa just 13 months ago. All of those babies have survived.

But experts say the multiple births bring unnecessary risks, and the results are usually the birth of sickly, premature babies.

``The ethical duty of a doctor is not to put a woman to risk that way and not to put the lives of newborns at risk that way,″ said Arthur Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Bioethics.

``Making babies is not a contest.″

With groups of six, seven and now eight children being born at the same time, many experts and physicians are examining how much control doctors can exert over large multiple births, a side effect of fertility drugs.

Dr. Benjamin Younger, executive director of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, suggests insurance carriers should become more involved, perhaps covering fertility treatments because only then will it become more regulated.

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