Family Matters

Judge: Octomom’s Doc Should Continue Seeing IVF Patients

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Say there’s a doctor who used 16 eggs to create 14 embryos and then transferred a dozen of them to a woman’s womb, where they eventually yielded eight babies. Should he be allowed to continue seeing patients?For now, the answer is yes. This week, a judge’s ruling on the fate of Michael Kamrava, the Beverly Hills fertility doctor who created Octomom, became public. Administrative Law Judge Daniel Juarez recommended Kamrava receive five years of probation; in his view, the evidence presented did not prove “an absence of qualification, ability or fitness.” So Juarez advises that Kamrava should be allowed to hang on to his medical license and continue practicing medicine.

Kamrava, who had treated Nadya Suleman since 1997 and helped her conceive six children before the octuplets, transferred a total of some 40 embryos to Suleman to achieve six pregnancies. In doing so, he blatantly disregarded the embryo-transfer guidelines issued by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), which booted him out in September. Women under age 35 should transfer no more than two, and preferably only one, fertilized embryo at a time. For women over age 40, the limit is five. (More on Building a Brighter Kid: Consider IVF)

Yet Juarez says women shouldn’t fear Kamrava’s indulgent ways because, the report states, they would be “adequately protected by a period of probation that includes, among other things, terms and conditions requiring (Kamrava) to complete an ethics course.”  It’s unclear what such a course would entail — perhaps lectures that an unemployed mom of six kids doesn’t actually need eight more?

Ethics aside, Kamrava’s track record wasn’t too impressive. Even though he tended to transfer more embryos than the ASRM’s recommendation — 3.5 compared to 2.3 nationwide — he still had a much lower success rate in comparison to other fertility specialists, according to statistics from the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. In 2006, the most recent year for which data was available, he logged a 10% pregnancy rate versus a 39% national average. (More on The IVF Doctor Behind the Octomom)

As it turns out, the ultimate decision as to whether Kamrava can continue practicing is not Juarez’ to make. The Medical Board of California has the final say; it is scheduled to consider the judge’s findings today.

But Kamrava’s failings seem pretty glaring, at least as far as others are concerned. The state has accused him of negligence and faults him for not dispatching the Octomom for mental health counseling. (More on Time.comThe Path to Oscar Passes Through Motherhood)

Sure, babies are a blessing, but that many — especially when you’re a single mom  — seems more like a curse. They’re the longest-surviving octuplets, but that achievement came at a cost: arriving nine weeks early, they required a battalion of medical personnel to nurse them to the point of discharge. Considering Suleman, then 33, lacked a job, it’s unlikely there’s much chance those hospital bills will ever be paid off.

Kamrava’s obviously not the only fall guy here. Suleman was clearly unbalanced, but Kamrava should have set her straight — and set her up an appointment with a psychiatrist.