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Eight is (More Than) Enough


by Rachel Lehmann-Haupt, October 21, 2009

In a move that may signal a more tightly controlled world of assisted reproductive technology, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine(ASRM) has expelled Dr. Michael Kamrava, aka Dr. Octomom, from its membership.

When single mother Nadya Sulemen, 33, gave birth to eight babies conceived via in vitro fertilization (IVF) last January, the world watched with mouths agape. As the story evolved, the bigger question became not why this mother would make the choice to use her body this way – it’s her choice after all! – but how a doctor, Dr. Kamrava of West Coast Fertility Center in Beverly Hills, could ethically implant so many embryos (six – two divided in utero) in a woman who already had six children and barely had the means to support them.

What is the role of an RE in these kinds of decisions?

At a time when doctors are questioning even implanting two embryos given the risks associated with multiple pregnancy and births, six goes far beyond a health risk. It also goes way beyond ASRM Guidelines which recommend transferring only one or two embryos in patients under 35.

Sean Tipton, a spokesperson for the ASRM, said the decision to remove Dr. Kamrava was not a response to this single case. “We removed him because of a pattern of behavior that he failed to live up to," Tipton said from the 2009 ASRM conference in Atlanta.

According to 2007 data posted online by the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, an affiliate of the ASRM, Kamrava reported transferring an average of 4.1 embryos to patients under 35.

In a September 25, 2009 press release, the ASRM stated, “The time has come for policy makers to sit down with the leading experts in the field to explore ways we can codify our standards to give them additional regulatory teeth. We will lead an effort involving our members, representatives of patient groups, policy makers and other stakeholders to work together to come up with solutions.”

So Dr. Kamrava’s out. With ASRM meeting in Atlanta this week, what will come next?


Rachel Lehmann-Haupt ( is a journalist and the author of In Her Own Sweet Time: Unexpected Adventures in Finding Love, Commitment and Motherhood.