Egypt septuplets stir debate on fertility drugs

The 27-year-old woman and her husband already had three children - all girls. They badly wanted a boy, and she had not conceived in five years, so doctors gave her hormones. The startling result was healthy septuplets - four boys and three girls - heralded by Egyptian doctors as a miracle. But debate persists about the ethics of fertility treatment in a nation where medical oversight is lax, incubators and neonatal respirators are rare, and many families face pressure to have a son. In addition, Egypt faces concerns about overpopulation and cheap fertility drugs could lead to a wave of multiple births. President Hosni Mubarak warned in June that growth is hindering Egypt's economy, saying Egypt's population of 79 million - mostly crammed into the 3 percent of the country's area around the Nile River - will double by 2050. For the mother, Ghazala Khamis, the most pressing question now is how her impoverished family is going to get by. "I'm really scared," she said, lying in her hospital bed in this Mediterranean coastal city. "We live in a mud hut with only two rooms. I don't know how we're going to afford 10 children now."