IVF, Octomom, and Irresponsible Medicine

You may have heard that Dr. Michael Kamrava transfered 12 embryos into Nadia Suleman (octomom) and was kicked out of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine as a result.  This number is really beyond shocking.  For my age, 35, I would have had to beg my doctors to transfer 3 embryos and signed a waiver.  Even in women over 40 four embryos is a lot.  Nadia was 32 when she had the IVF and she had no infertility diagnosis.  Meaning she is in fact fertile which increases her chances of successful pregnancy substantially.  Since our infertility is male factor I too am considered fertile and my IVF success rate was estimated over 60%.  By contrast, a woman over 44 has a 1.4% chance per embryo.  This has an effect on the doctor’s decision about number of embryos to transfer.

I’m so torn about this decision.  On the one hand, what Dr. Kamrava did was so far outside accepted medicine that he just had to be stripped of his license.  I mean this does not fall into “do no harm.”  Transferring that many embryos posed potential harm to Nadia and her children.  You don’t want someone with such disregard for science to be treating you.

On the other hand though – despite the millions of babies born through IVF with responsible doctors and patients – this could prompt laws that restrict doctors and patients from making important decisions based on the facts of a single case.  European countries have very restrictive laws about IVF and I don’t think this is the direction that we should go in the US.  For example, in Italy and Germany, the precious babies I’m carrying right now would have been impossible because embryo freezing is outlawed.  The fear of embryos that won’t survive the freeze stops the many embryos that would become children from having that chance.  Laws also limit the number of embryos transferred as would likely be the result of the Octomom problem.  But no one really wins from this.  In Scandinavian countries 2 embryos is the limit – ignoring the medical facts that might make more embryos the best decision.  At the same time Germany requires ALL created embryos to be transferred.  in my case this would have meant transferring 13 embryos!  Thirteen embryos in a healthy, fertile, 31 year old!

What happens in Europe is that “medical tourism” becomes a multi-billion dollar industry with couples traveling to less restrictive countries for treatment from for-profit clinics.  This limits the chance to receive proper medical care to those that can afford it and makes IVF a commodity to be advertised.  Can you see the future?  Buy on Get on Free this week only!  Do we want this to be the case amongst the states?

Yet part of me thinks (hopes) if the law gets involved with IVF then won’t the insurance companies have to stop pretending this 30+ year old technology is “experimental” and begin to cover it?  How many women have their entire life savings riding on one cycle of IVF?  This really pushes women into accepting a larger embryo transfer when facing $20,000 in costs. Nearly all of the countries in Europe with the myriad laws also cover IVF through their socialized healthcare system.  If you knew this wasn’t your one and only bank-breaking chance maybe you could be more conservative with your choices.

I’m sick of IVF being restricted because of sanctity of life issues.  For every Nadia Suleman there are thousands of women for whom those embryos are beyond precious.  Making laws for the few who abuse the system at the expense of the many that need this life-giving treatment is just stupid and sad.

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5 thoughts on “IVF, Octomom, and Irresponsible Medicine

  1. Don’t even get me started bashing insurance companies. They have no business in the medical decision making business. If it is prescribed by a practicing physician the insurance companies should have to cover it. If AI doesn’t work they IVF should have be covered. If one dose doesn’t work then they should have to pay for 2 doses. The doctor should be the decision maker when it comes to what the patient needs.
    The doctor and octomom are at fault for the risk to those babies.

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  2. Your quite right: in Holland, the transfer-rules are strickt. By law one can receive 2 embryo's max. But in the hospitals there are even more rules, most of the time. My ivf-hospital does SET (single embryo transfer) when a woman is 35 or younger and the embryo's look fine. No choice for the wannebe-parents. Only after about 2 or 3 treatments that didn't work out, you can have 2 embryo's.

    Only very good ones of what's left become cryo's. On that one, the doctor decides too. They say they want to protect the couple for the disappointment of no embryo transfer after defreezing a not so good embryo – they like to make a selection in advance when they expect the embryo not to defreeze well.

    It might be a good protocol, because I'm the mother of a cryo-child.

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  3. Your quite right: in Holland, the transfer-rules are strickt. By law one can receive 2 embryo’s max. But in the hospitals there are even more rules, most of the time. My ivf-hospital does SET (single embryo transfer) when a woman is 35 or younger and the embryo’s look fine. No choice for the wannebe-parents. Only after about 2 or 3 treatments that didn’t work out, you can have 2 embryo’s.

    Only very good ones of what’s left become cryo’s. On that one, the doctor decides too. They say they want to protect the couple for the disappointment of no embryo transfer after defreezing a not so good embryo – they like to make a selection in advance when they expect the embryo not to defreeze well.

    It might be a good protocol, because I’m the mother of a cryo-child.

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  4. What a great post. Your final paragraph sums it up perfectly! I must point out though that, due to many arbitrary restrictions, in the UK our socialized healthcare system only covers IVF for some people. The rest of us still have to pay for that socialized system while paying for our own IVF treatment privately.

    I hope you and your precious babies are doing well. I’m now in the middle of my FET cycle so called by here for some FET inspiration! 🙂

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