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A mother of twins at 66, dead at 69: fair or foul?

July 16, 2009 |  1:53 pm

Maria del Carmen Bousada, the woman who became (briefly) the oldest new mother in the world at 66 after giving birth to twins in 2006, is reported to have died Saturday in Spain of cancer, leaving her 2-year-old sons, Christian and Pau, motherless. Ms. Bousada was unmarried, and according to one report, her nephew will be raising the children who survive her.

The death has been reported broadly in Spain, but is just today being reported by news outlets in the United States.

In the age of endless chatter about reality parenting, extreme childbirth and other feats of fertility, Bousada's death has become the latest to spur debate over the circumstances under which one should become a mother, including that of middle or old age. And a joint effort by BabyCenter.com, an interactive parenting network, and the makers of the at-home E.P.T.pregnancy test has some provocative findings on the attitudes of women who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant or have become recent mothers about such issues. They're culled from an online survey completed by 1,095 respondents May 18-24.

Here's a sample of their findings, due to be posted here in the next couple of days:

--Half of respondents said they believed people are fit to become parents at any age. But the other half said they believed that if parents have children after the age of 45, it is not good for the children involved.

--A quarter of the women who completed the survey said they believe physicians should be held more responsible for providing in-vitro fertilization treatment to women who might be deemed "unfit" parents. Another quarter, however, said that making such a judgment is not part of a doctor's job.

--Roughly half the women surveyed believed that single women seeking IVF treatment should receive tougher scrutiny before service is provided, particularly in the areas of emotional well-being and financial stability.

--70% of those taking the survey said they believe that the public visibility of large families and multiple births (for instance, Jon & Kate Plus Eight, Octomom and the Brangelina family) is giving people a glamorized view of raising children. (At the same time, however, 31% said they considered Angelina Jolie, a mother of six, the celebrity that most closely fits their idea of how to build a family.)

--70% said that even if they could, they would not select embryos with pre-determined physical features.

No one would argue that the sample women who took the time to respond to this survey is necessarily representative. But it certainly is food for thought and debate. What do you think about Ms. Bousada's death or the survey's findings?

--Melissa Healy

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