Are Duomoms as Bad as Octomoms?
A debate on the New York Times website examines the question of regulating twins. Just as many people called for restrictions on in vitro fertilization after Nadya Suleman gave birth to octuplets, some medical experts are outraged by the far more commonplace occurrence of twin births — and they’d like the government to intervene.
The first panelist, Mark I. Evans, correctly points out that twin births have a larger effect on the health care system than do newsworthy events like the birth of octuplets. Twins are more likely to be born prematurely and to experience other complications. Although Evans stops short of recommending policy changes, some of the other panelists suggest regulation to prevent twin births.
I don’t think public opinion sides with the experts who consider any case of twin gestation to involve unacceptable risk. Nor do most casual observers decry Suleman’s actions based on a comparison of the cost of the octuplets’ birth with other burdens on the health care system. Instead, the objection to Suleman seems to arise from rule utilitarianism — the idea that bearing octuplets is morally wrong because it would be disastrous if everyone did so.
Proponents of regulation admit that bans on twins won’t be enacted any time soon. Robert Stillman, another panelist, blames America’s respect for freedom, which he sees as an oddity. I’m amused by the attitude that there’s single-payer health care, and then there’s everything else (emphasis mine):
In our non-single payer health care system and in our national cultural context (with its paramount legacy of individual rights over those of the state), patient autonomy will almost always prevail.