Nadya Suleman's Fertility Doctor Under Scrutiny

Saturday, Feb 7, 2009  |  Updated 9:33 AM PDT
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Nadya Suleman's Fertility Doctor Under Scrutiny

Nadya Suleman

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The spotlight on the mother of octuplets is turning to the fertility doctor who helped her give birth not once but 14 times by implanting Nadya Suleman with fertilized embryos.

The Medical Board of California investigating the doctor -- whom it did not name -- to see if there was a "violation of the standard of care," board spokeswoman Candis Cohen said Friday.

She did not elaborate.

Suleman, 33, of Whittier, already had six children when she gave birth Jan. 26 to octuplets. The births to an unemployed, divorced single mother prompted angry questions about how she plans to provide for her children.

But the backlash seems to have extended as well to Suleman's doctor.

In a portion of an NBC interview, broadcast Friday, Suleman said she had six embryos implanted for each of her in vitro pregnancies, using the same sperm donor and fertility specialist.

In the case of the octuplets, the procedure resulted in six boys and two girls, including two sets of twins.

The revelation about one center treating her makes the treatment even harder to understand," said Arthur Caplan, bioethics chairman at the University of Pennsylvania. "They went ahead when she had six kids, knowing that she was a single mom ... and put embryos into her anyway."

In the United States, there is no law dictating the number of embryos that can be placed in a mother's womb. Multiple embryos can be implanted to improve the odds that one will take.

However, there are national guidelines which put the norm at two to three embryos for a woman of Suleman's age, in order to lessen the health risks to the mother and the chances of multiple births.

When asked why so many embryos were implanted, Suleman told NBC: "Those are my children, and that's what was available and I used them. So, I took a risk. It's a gamble. It always is."

She said her life's goal was to be a mother and she had struggled for seven years before finally giving birth to her first child in 2001.

"All I wanted was children. I wanted to be a mom. That's all I ever wanted in my life," Suleman said in the portion of the interview that aired Friday. "I love my children."

According to state documents, Suleman told a doctor she had three miscarriages. Another doctor disputed that number, saying she had two ectopic pregnancies, a dangerous condition in which a fertilized egg implants somewhere other than in the uterus.
 

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