[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/HEALTH/01/30/embryos.ethics/art.octuplets.house.cnn.jpg caption="The octuplets' family's home in Whittier, California, near Los Angeles."]
Just about the time that eight babies began growing inside a California woman's womb, some nationwide policies about fertility treatment were being codified. In June, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine issued updated "Guidelines on Number of Embryos Transferred." Women und 35 — the octuplets' mom is reportedly 33 — should attempt to transfer no more than two, and preferably only one, fertilized embryo at a time. Women over 40 should attempt no more than five.
How the California woman, apparently a single mother who already has six young children, including a set of twins, got pregnant is the subject of rampant speculation. But regardless of whether the octuplets are the result of in vitro fertilization (IVF) or fertility drugs — with the latter having historically been available on the cheap in Mexico — there is little doubt that from a medical and ethical perspective, something went very wrong. And fertility specialists now find themselves on the defensive, trying to fend off the perception that theirs is an undisciplined, irresponsible profession.
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