Locals Join in Octuplet Debate; MEDICAL ETHICS Fertility Specialist Says Giving Treatment Was 'Irresponsible.' PARENTAL RIGHTS but Can Physicians Dictate How Many Children a Mother Has?

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Byline: JEFF BRUMLEY

The outrage surrounding the birth of octuplets in California may be misplaced, a First Coast physician said Tuesday.

Instead of blasting the single mother of six who used in vitro fertilization to have more children, scrutinize the doctor who helped her conceive and deliver the additional eight, said Jacksonville fertility specialist Kevin L. Winslow.

"I think the real issue here - the real criticism here - is that the physician was totally, totally irresponsible," he said.

The number of embryos implanted in the woman should have been limited to two or three - not the eight she reportedly carried to term, he said.

Questions of medical ethics, social responsibility and parental rights have erupted coast to coast since Nadya Suleman gave birth to the six boys and two girls in Los Angeles on Jan. 26. Should a woman - a single mom living with her parents - have any more kids when she already has six? Should fertility treatments have been granted to her at all, whether to have one, two or eight children? And what right - or duty - do the public and physicians have in deciding such issues?

In some circumstances, the public should be heard on such issues, said Daniel Kantor, a physician at Shands Jacksonville and a member of the hospital's ethics committee.

"Somebody having octuplets on top of six ... it's hard to believe they're wealthy enough to pay for everything" related to the rearing of these children, he said.

"Who's going to pay for the health care of these children?" Kantor

said. "If it's going to be the public, maybe the public has a right to weigh in."

The welfare of the newborns is also a key issue, Kantor said, noting that children who are part of multiple births have a higher risk of health complications and even death.

The rights of parents must also be considered, Kantor said, because it's not society's role to set limits on the number of children a family can or should have.

In fact, fertility physicians are reluctant to disqualify patients for treatment based on how many children they already have, said Michael Fox, a reproductive specialist in Jacksonville. …