Nadya Suleman recently gave birth to octuplets, six boys and two girls. These newborns join the six other children that were also conceived through in-vitro fertilization. Suleman is a single mother of 14 young children, living at home with her (distressed?) parents. As the father of two teenage daughters, I certainly appreciate the joys (and challenges) of parenting. But this is ridiculous.
Workers comp has played an interesting role in enabling Suleman to become the media's latest and greatest fertility symbol. Back in 1999, Suleman worked the graveyard shift as a psychiatric technician at the Metropolitan State Hospital in California. She was injured in a mini-riot, when a patient threw a desk at her, injuring her spine. The back injury was clearly visible on her MRI and obviously compensable. She was disabled from work and collected workers comp. We don't know how hard the hospital tried to bring Suleman back to work.
In 2001 she was on her way to a treatment session, when she was involved in an auto accident, injuring her back, shoulders and neck. She filed a claim for continued benefits based upon these new injuries. Her employer objected, but Suleman prevailed at a hearing. (I would have thought that going to a scheduled appointment, like "to and fro" in going to work, would not in itself be "in the course and scope" of employment - but obviously, the judge disagreed.) As a result of her continued indemnity payments, Suleman was supported by workers comp during her extensive and remarkably successful attempts to have children.
Pregnancy and a Bad Back
Suleman admitted that her back injury was exacerbated by her pregnancies. At the most recent hearing, in August 2008, Dr. Steven Nagelberg attributed 90 percent of her injury to the work incident and 10 percent to her pregnancy. (Obviously, Dr. Nagelberg has never been pregnant!)
In any event, Suleman has collected about $165,000 on her workers comp claim. Here is the key point: Suleman claimed to love her job, but her employer was unwilling or unable to bring her back to work. Given her attitudes toward life, marriage and children, she was undoubtedly a handful. Nonetheless, an aggressive attempt to return her to productive work might have saved the state a lot of money. As it was, comp became Suleman's primary means of support as she pursued her dream of having a family. Some dream!
In a recent interview on the Today show, Suleman says she had six embryos implanted in her fertility procedure — far more than industry guidelines recommend — and was well aware that multiple births could result. Indeed, during the very early stages of the pregnancy, the six became eight. (Hmm. I wonder if the infertility doctor consulted his/her local medical ethicist when agreeing to do this procedure.)
"I wanted them all transferred. Those are my children, and that's what was available and I used them. So, I took a risk. It's a gamble. It always is."
"It turned out perfectly," Suleman added.
Perfection is not the word that comes to my mind. This is a failure of mind-boggling dimensions, with profound implications for 14 innocent children. It is ironic that workers comp, the safety net for injured workers, has played a relatively small, but definitive role in this sorry saga.