Here's some of what we know about the Suleman octuplets, born in California on January 26th to 33 year-old Nadya Suleman:
1. She is single. She has six children (all the result of in vitro). One of the six is autistic. Nadya and the six children all live together in the "family home" with Nadya's parents. Her mother has been caring for Nadya's older six children (ranging in ages from 2 to 7 years old) for over a month while Nadya has been in the hospital.
2. According to her mother, Nadya is "obsessed" with children and "wanted one more girl." As an aside, Nadya's mother also has stated that her daughter has no more embryos left, so no more children.
3. The babies are all reportedly doing well, though their mother is unable to touch them. They were born 9 weeks early, and their intestines (among other organs, I would guess) are still developing.
4. No exact numbers on cost of octuplets' medical bills. However, in 2006, average cost of one caesarean birth in California was $22,762; in that same year, a single premature birth led to an average hospital stay of 25 days and cost $164,273. Doing the math..... leads to (2006) cost of $1.3 million for eight premature babies (assuming only 25 days in hospital after birth).
5. Suleman has hired a publicist, currently making the rounds from Larry King to all the morning shows. The publicist is going to earn every penny she charges to Suleman -- probably a contingency fee, like a commission charged by an agent (or lawyer).
6. Here are some of the benefits other high-multiple families have obtained:
-- Chokwu Octuplets in Houston, TX (born 1998) live in a donated 6-bedroom home.
-- McCaughey septuplets from Iowa (born 1997) received a donated 16-room home, a 15-passenger van, Gerber baby food, and a lifetime supply of Pampers.
-- Jon&Kate Plus 8 family (sextuplets added to existing set of twins) have received -- as part of reality TV show -- numerous freebies in addition to payment, tummy tuck (Kate) and hair plugs (Jon).
We can stop on that note.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME????? This is like a reality "Enquirer" story gone completely wrong. This is the baby equivalent of Dennis Kozlowski's looting of Tyco (remember gold-plated bathrooms and the Roman toga party for his wife?) or, more recently, of John Thain (Bank of America)'s $1,000.00 wastebasket.
Nadya Suleman's story demonstrates the invasion of our society's excesses into every single corner of our lives. No limits, no self-restraint, no rational thinking, no planning for the future, no intervention by those capable of carrying out limits in the form of recommended guidelines, and very limited public outrage over the whole episode.
However, there is hope. You do get the feeling that people everywhere, in America and around the world, are beginning to feel more comfortable voicing outrage over this situation. The initial shock over the birth of 8 children (the publicist's line on "The Larry King Show" was that the "real" story here is the complete joy and elation everyone felt at discovering the existence of an 8th child when only 7 had been previously detected -- I guess 7 is just average, while 8 pushes the births into true record territory?) has given way to shaking heads and truly hard questions concerning everything from cost -- dollarwise and healthwise to both mother and children themselves, to risk and doctors' obligations under such circumstances.
The questions being asked are frighteningly similar to those being asked about the investment banks, the collateralized mortgage debacle, and Bernard Madoff. Where was the S.E.C. ? (Why did the fertility doctor disregard all guidelines and assume such risk?) Where were Moody's, Standard & Poor's, and the other investment rating authorities? (Where is Suleman's fertility doctor, by the way? Does he/she have a sole practice without any involvement whatsoever from other doctors or care providers?) How did Madoff remain so relatively untouched by authorities despite specific knowledge by others of his scheme? (Didn't anyone take into account that Suleman already had 6 children and wasn't married and was "obsessed with children"?)
I love babies. I don't believe in limiting the number of children one family may have. I strongly believe in social programs that protect children, both born and unborn (let's hope we don't find out that Suleman is a chain smoker). I believe in preventing known risks to children and to people generally. I also believe in protections for investors, and in the responsibility of oversight authorities to provide oversight in the form of guidelines and minimum standards.
I am thankful to Nadya Suleman for one thing. The babies' octuplet-ism has enabled them to almost completely dislodge the media from their 24/7 coverage of our oncoming economic slaughter. Maybe the publicist got it all wrong. Maybe complete and total diversion is the real joy of that 8th baby...!