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Should A Sixty Year Old Woman Have a Child?
By Moira McMahon, Researcher
In episode 309, The Parent Trap, Addison and Pete treat a 23 week-old fetus whose brain is swollen twice its size.
The tiny baby is missing a small fluid pathway between two areas of the brain. In essence, their brain can't drain. So it fills up with fluid. Eventually this condition will lead to mental retardation and loss of motor skills—even death. This condition is very rare. And even rarer still, is the age of its mom—sixty! She's in love with a thirty year old man and they've decided to start a family.
Thankfully, Addison's expert skill as a neonatal surgeon saves this unborn child. Addison performs brain surgery through the uterus and soon the baby's brain stops swelling and returns to normal size.
However, this baby will eventually be the only child in kindergarten whose mother qualifies for a senior discount at the movies. If the mother lives to be the ripe old age of 100, her child will lose its mother at the age of 30.
Is that fair?
No one knows how long they will live when they have a child. A twenty-five year old mother could live until their child is seventy or seven. Though this sixty-year-old mother may pass away when her child is relatively young, her husband is thirty. He will have a long life with his child. Or not. We just don't know.
Teenagers who are ill-equipped to parent have children every day. Some children are sadly abused or neglected by people who had them in their twenties or thirties. The age of the parent is no guarantee that a child will be provided for financially and emotionally. The child in our episode will have a loving attentive mother, but for a brief time.
Do we have a responsibility to limit the bounds of fertility treatments?
How old is too old to be a parent?