A Spanish woman who deceived a U.S. fertility clinic about her age and become the oldest woman to give birth has died at 69, leaving behind 2-year-old twins, newspapers reported Wednesday.
Maria del Carmen Bousada gave birth in December 2006 after telling a clinic in Los Angeles that she was 55, the facility's maximum age for single women receiving in-vitro fertilization. Guinness World Records said the 66-year-old was the oldest on record to give birth and the case ignited fierce debate over how much responsibility fertility clinics have over their patients.
Bousada told an interviewer at the time that the Pacific Fertility Center did not ask her for identification, and maintained that because her mother had died at 101, she stood a good chance of living long enough to raise her children.
Dr. Vicken Sahakian, director and owner of the clinic, said Bousada falsified her birth date on documents from Spain.
When he learned of the deception, "I figured something might happen and wind up being a disaster for these kids, and unfortunately I was right," he said.
It's easy for women to lie to their doctors, he said.
"We don't ask for passports, obviously," Sahakian said. "When is the last time you went to a doctor and he asked you for a birth certificate? We're not detectives here."
Bousada's brother told the local newspaper Diario de Cadiz that she had died but he did not disclose the cause. The newspaper said, without citing a source, that Bousada had been diagnosed with a tumor shortly after giving birth.
Sahakian said he implanted the Spanish woman with a younger woman's eggs and donated sperm, using hormones to "rejuvenate" her uterus with hormone therapy after she had been in menopause for 18 years.
The hormone treatment lasted three weeks. Sahakian said he did not believe that increased the woman's cancer risk.
"Nothing she did (to get pregnant) caused her illness," he said.
The brother, Ricardo Bousada, told the Barcelona-based newspaper El Periodico de Catalunya that he had exclusively sold details of his sister's death to an unidentified television program and that the proceeds would go to looking after his sister's twin boys, Pau and Christian.
Repeated calls by The Associated Press to Ricardo Bousada's residence in the southern province of Cadiz went unanswered. A woman who answered the phone at a number listed for another brother, Jose Luis Bousada, declined to comment. Her death was also reported by the national newspapers El Mundo
There was no word on who would raise the twins. Bousada had once said she would look for a younger man to help her raise them.
Bousada lived with her mother most of her life in Cadiz and worked in a department store before retiring. She decided to have children after her mother died in 2005 and initially kept her plan secret from her family, she told reporters.
She told the British tabloid News of the World that she sold her house to raise $59,000 to pay for the in-vitro fertilization.
"I think everyone should become a mother at the right time for them," Bousada told the paper. "Often circumstances put you between a rock and a hard place, and maybe things shouldn't have been done in the way they were done, but that was the only way to achieve the thing I had always dreamed of, and I did it," she said.
Spanish law on assisted reproduction sets no age limit, but state-funded and private clinics that offer the procedure set the ceiling at age 50 in an informal agreement based on recommendations from the scientific community, according to the Health Ministry.
There is no U.S. law limiting the age at which women can receive in vitro fertilization but Sahakian said he generally limits it to 55 or 56 because "I would like the mother ... to basically survive until the kids reach 18."
When Bousada finally told her relatives she was two months pregnant, they thought she was joking, she said.
"Yes, I am old of course, but if I live as long as my mom did, imagine, I could even have grandchildren," she told the News of the World.
Allan Pacey, secretary of the British Fertility Society, said the organization recommends that assisted conception generally not be provided to women beyond the natural age of menopause at about 50.
"The rationale for all that is that nature didn't design women to have assisted conception beyond the age of the natural menopause...once you get into the mid-50s, I think nature is trying to tell us something," Pacey told The AP.
He added: "I think many people would worry about providing fertility treatment to women in their 60s. I think as a general rule, to embark on pregnancy when you may not see your child go to university is potentially a very difficult situation."
Adriana Iliescu, a Romanian who in 2005 also gave birth at 66, although she was 130 days younger than Bousada, said she was pained to hear of her death and what it meant for her sons.
"It is a great sadness when kids are orphans but civil society will help these children," she told The AP.
She described her little daughter Eliza as "very energetic and spoiled. We dance and sing together."
"I don't feel I am getting old. My pregnancy kept me young," Iliescu said.
AP correspondents Maria Cheng in London, Alison Mutler in Bucharest, and Jorge Sainz and Paul Haven in Madrid contributed to this report.