Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The fertility doctor who treated “Octomom” Nadya Suleman last year is back in the spotlight, accused of medical malpractice by the state licensing board.

The California Medical Board filed a lawsuit against Dr. Michael Kamrava this week for implanting seven embryos in a 48-year-old woman, which the board said put her at “great risk.”

The board recommends that the doctor’s license be revoked or suspended.

The woman, referred to as L.C., already had three adult children when she started in-vitro treatments with Dr. Kamrava. Out of the seven embryos planted, only four developed into fetuses. Three were born, with the fourth dying in the womb.

According to the medical board’s complaint, Dr. Kamrava demonstrated “gross negligence,” and his actions led to “catastrophic results.” It said such a high number of embryos “transferred to L.C. should not have been transferred into any woman, regardless of age.”

Ms. Suleman, who had received in-vitro treatments in the past, was 34 when she was treated by the doctor. She became a tabloid sensation and sparked criticism from the public when it was discovered that she was not married, was unemployed and had already given birth to six children, four of whom were conceived by in vitro.

Whether conceived naturally or with the aid of fertility drugs, pregnancies become riskier to both mother and offspring with every additional child. To deliberately implant multiple embryos became the subject of much criticism during the “Octomom” celebrity episode.

Dr. Kamrava did not return a call for comment Wednesday.

The board also said that Dr. Kamrava never referred L.C. to a mental health professional before her treatments. The woman and her family, it said, should have received “appropriate counseling from an expert to help them deal with this unique situation.”

The complaint mentions a similar lawsuit filed by the board in January 2008 against Dr. Kamrava for helping Ms. Suleman conceive the set of octuplets.

The board accused the doctor of providing “IVF treatment without consideration regarding potential harm to [the patient’s] future children.”

The complaint includes other cases, highlighting a woman who discovered she had ovarian cancer after becoming pregnant. According to the board, Dr. Kamrava did not test the woman before treatment.

Ann Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League, said the case was a prime example of how in-vitro fertilization has a way of “cheapening human life.”

“There are all kinds of ways to love a child,” she said. “But the notion that you have to turn to this type of technology that may end up with things like this, creating seven little lives with the risk that some of them are going to lose their lives in the process, is a wrong approach to human life.”

Ms. Scheidler thinks there are other ways to care for a child including adoption, foster care and helping children who are in the hospital.

“It may be that they are called to minister to children in a different way,” she said.

Bob Enyart, spokesman for American Right to Life, said he agrees with the medical board’s action and insists that fertility doctors need boundaries, including treating embryos as persons rather than disposable commodities.

“Recognizing the personhood of these kids will end up protecting further, doctors, their patients, and their patient’s children,” he said.

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