Published February 11, 2009
Lost in the media storm surrounding Nadya Suleman, the mother of new octuplets born through in vitro fertilization, is the father of those babies.
Incidentally, the octuplets' father is also the father of Suleman's six other children, who were also conceived via in vitro fertilization.
According to Suleman's mother, Angela, the octuplets' father, is one of her daughter's "admirers."
Reportedly, the name David Solomon appears on four of the first six kids' birth certificates. Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported that the octuplets last names would be Solomon. But, no one knows for sure if David Solomon is actually the name of the hopefully-not-so-proud father.
Whomever donated the sperm that resulted in Suleman giving birth to a total of 14 children likely feels he bears no responsibility for the chaos these children will experience in life. After all, once he provided his sperm to doctors, they were the ones who presumed Suleman to be a competent person and used that sperm to fertilize her eggs. They acceded to her wishes to implant the resulting embryos in her uterus. They tended to her during the pregnancy and delivered the children into the world.
What possible moral failing could be assigned to a man who merely provided the genetic material for a sterile laboratory procedure sanctioned by the law of our land, a procedure that has helped bring millions of beloved children into the arms of good and decent parents?
I believe the octuplets' father does bear a moral burden for providing the sperm used in this birthing calamity. The 14 children fathered by Suleman's sperm donor were born to an unemployed mother with psychological problems and no apparent insight into the consequences of her actions. But they are also the offspring of someone she apparently knows, and that person apparently has even less concern for the human lives he helped create.
Imagine having a self-centered mother who is using you and your 13 siblings to feel less lonely (because she's angry she was an only child herself) and having been fathered by someone who has no particular interest in how or why you were created or what happens to you. If that sounds like a prescription for low self-esteem, not to mention potential depression or drug addiction or an anxiety disorder, it is.
The Suleman case exposes gnawing ethical questions that are not asked frequently enough about the whole process of sperm and egg donation.
At what ethical cost does a society decide to sever every meaningful connection between millions of human beings and their offspring? When the medical system is shown to be capable of the kind of reprehensible, misdirected creative impulse evident in the Suleman case, doesn't it begin to support the notion that donors of sperm and eggs have some responsibility to make sure they aren't helping to create chaos and suffering? Must asexual reproduction be, by its very nature, amoral reproduction?
I say no. I hold the sperm donor in the Suleman case just as responsible as she is for the tears to be shed by her children. He had to participate as an actor in this strange drama for it to go so horribly awry. It was his sperm. His. Part of him. If that means nothing to us as a culture anymore, then we may indeed be losing ourselves in our science.
Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatry correspondent for FOX News Channel and a New York Times bestselling author. His newest book, "Living the Truth: Transform Your Life through the Power of Insight and Honesty" has launched a new self-help movement. Check out Dr. Ablow's website at livingthetruth.com firstname.lastname@example.org
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