Hot on the heels of a California woman, Nadya Suleman, having octuplets after receiving fertility treatment comes news that a Calgary woman, Ranjit Hayer, used in-vitro fertilization to have twins at the age of 60.
And the ethical debate over who should or should not be allowed to have babies was revved up even higher, raising some important access to care issues.
Her own obstetrician, Dr. Colin Birch, voiced doubts, telling the CBC that he couldn't reconcile himself with the idea of a 60-year-old woman getting in-vitro fertilization.
"It's going against nature. It's going against so many different things. The nature and the body has said that unfortunately you've made it to 60 and haven't had children. Unfortunately, there is some reason for that," Birch said.
"Sixty is not an optimal time to be gestating an offspring, not to mention lactating and caring for an offspring," said Juliet Guichon, who teaches bioethics at University of Calgary faculty of medicine.
While much of the debate has focused on the women in the two cases, ethicists are also starting to question why their doctorswent along, at least in the case of the octuplets.
Patients have a right to ask for treatments, and doctors have a responsibility to listen to them, the ethicists say -- but doctors also have a responsibility to say no when the circumstance demand. How they decide such things and navigate the tricky waters of the doctor-patient relationship is why more and more hospitals are hiring professional ethicists.
A 2005 study by Toronto's Joint Centre for Bioethics ranked doctor-patient disputes over treatment plans the top ethical challenge facing medicine today, ranking above such issues as waiting lists and doctor shortages.
"Thirty years ago, the issue was when patients could say no (to a doctor). Now it's when can a doctor so no (to a patient)," says Jonathan Breslin, co-author of the report.
It would seem, at least, that the Calgary doctors did refuse to treat Hayer, saying she was too old to start a family.
Hayer, however, went to India to get fertility treatment, and that introduces an entirely new element to the debate -- the inability to set standards for care at home when patients are a plane ride away from getting any treatment they want, even if it's unethical or illegal at home.
Ethicists, from what I have seen, however, agree agreed that the Calgary doctors had an ethical responsibility to care for Hayer once she became pregnant -- which they did.