US: Octomom's fertility doctor testifies to save license

At California hearing, Dr. Michael Kamrava describes his emigration from his native Iran to the US in 1968, "because my background is Jewish."

Michael Kamrava 311 AP (photo credit: Associated Press)
Michael Kamrava 311 AP
(photo credit: Associated Press)
LOS ANGELES — The fertility doctor whose in vitro treatments gave Nadya Suleman her octuplets tearfully began testimony Wednesday as he defended his methods in the fight to keep his medical license.
Dr. Michael Kamrava appeared shaken after being sworn in for the Medical Board of California's licensing hearing in downtown Los Angeles. He stammered and went silent on the stand before describing his emigration from his native Iran to the United States in 1968, at age 16.
The Beverly Hills doctor detailed his life decades before he helped Suleman have octuplets and six other children through in vitro fertilization.
"My family background is Jewish, and that was one of the reasons I came here," Kamrava said before stopping to wipe away tears.
The state licensing agency alleges that Kamrava was negligent in the treatment of Suleman and two other patients, and is seeking to revoke or suspend his license.
Kamrava regained his composure once he began delving into his educational background and the evolving science of fertility medicine through the course of his career.
Kamrava said Suleman first came to him in 1997 and was already taking hormones to increase her chances for becoming pregnant.
She was "very desirous" of having children, and the then-childless woman who is now known as "Octomom" told him that she'd been trying to become pregnant for four years and had suffered a miscarriage, said Kamrava.
"I'm going to have 10 kids, I just want to have large family," Kamrava recalled Suleman saying in their first meeting.
Early on, under Kamrava's recommendation, Suleman underwent artificial insemination because it was cheaper and less invasive, but her ovaries were unresponsive and her embryos were of low quality, so the procedure didn't take, he said.
In hearings this week, an expert witness for the state testified that Suleman's medical records show Kamrava implanted 12 embryos in the pregnancy that gave Suleman the eight babies. National guidelines recommend no more than two embryos for a woman her age.
In less than eight years, Kamrava repeatedly performed in vitro fertilization for Suleman, implanting her with 60 fresh embryos that resulted in 14 children.
"It is not just the numbers, the quality of the embryos is extremely important," Kamrava repeatedly said throughout Wednesday's testimony.
Though he implanted many embryos for each pregnancy, Kamrava said his goal was always to have "singletons," or single-baby pregnancies.
There are health risks associated with crowding in a mother's uterus that could endanger the mother and result in premature birth or other ailments for the babies.
Suleman is identified only as N.S. in the medical board's documents and hearings but has previously identified Kamrava as her doctor. The documents also identify N.S. as the mother of octuplets, and Nadya Suleman is the mother of the world's only living full set of octuplets.
Witness Dr. Suraj Achar earlier testified that the doctor was very remorseful for his treatment of Suleman. Achar visited Kamrava's office once to assess his record-keeping at the request of the fertility doctor's lawyer.
In their only meeting, Kamrava said he regretted the outcome of Suleman's pregnancy and that they discussed his strategies to reduce multiple gestation with future patients, according to Achar.
In early testimony, Kamrava detailed his professional experience, including a stint at the University of California Los Angeles' obstetrics and gynecology department, saying he "was privileged to be accepted to the staff" for more than 20 years.
A spokeswoman for the university said Kamrava was part of the "department's unpaid, voluntary teaching staff from June 1, 1984, through Dec. 31, 2008."
The octuplets' birth in January 2009 was hailed by many as a miracle until details of Suleman's personal life became public, and concern grew for the safety of her 14 children.
Before the octuplets were born, the unemployed and divorced Suleman and her children lived with her mother, relying on food stamps, school loans, workers compensation and disability payments for her two autistic children to get by.
More recently, Suleman has tried to make a living by selling pictures and gossip items about herself to the tabloid media, but she struggles to pay rent and is facing a $450,000 balloon payment on her La Habra home.
Kamrava is also accused of failing to refer Suleman for a mental health consultation when she repeatedly sought fertility treatment.