On April 9th 2009 I wrote my first blog about the practice of IVF Centers offering “IVF Raffles” as a marketing incentive to attract couples to their centers. That is almost three and half years ago. To me, there has always been a built in “ick factor”.
Usually the contest involves the infertile person or couple writing an essay about why they want a baby and are the most deserving to have one. These contests are often run around a speaking opportunity for the IVF Center. It’s a marketing carrot, not compassion. Compassion is offering quietly without radio ads and marketing speaking events. The deal is that usually couples are drawn into the center with the hope that they could get picked, and while they are there they are offered finance programs. Yes, a lucky couple will win. And yes, no one can measure the joy that winning will mean to that couple. And yet…..
I hate contests when we have to measure the level of suffering and need. Truly, how do you do that? What set of judges has the ability to discern levels of pain and suffering? Do you really want to be the person that picks who gets a chance at life? And that is exactly what we are talking about here – a chance at life. Every time I see these contests – my stomach turns. I did a Internet google search on the ethics of raffling off health care and I have come up empty handed in the past. No other field of medicine does this. I kept wondering why no one ever reported on this, until a few weeks when I was first contacted by a report at the New York Times for found my blog on IVF Raffles. He was damn interested.
That led to my quote in today’s Sunday New York Times front page story, “IVF Clinic Raffles Could Make You a Winner and Maybe a Mother”. And now a national conversation that is way bigger than my blogs on the subject dating from so long ago! I love it. It’s about time. It is also wonderful that this is the week that The American Society of Reproductive Medicine is meeting in San Diego. What perfect timing. Shouldn’t ASRM’s Ethics Committee finally put this on their agenda?
I have always known that I could not possibly be the only person in the universe that is bothered by the fact and it is a fact, that IVF Baby Raffles are done in the guise of helping couples who can’t afford IVF, but it on it’s deepest of levels is a marketing event?
I have never in my life seen Cancer Treatment Centers offer raffles for life saving Chemo, or a raffle for a much need kidney. People may work around a cause to raise money to help someone have the treatment that they need – but this is very different than a contest to win based at the amount of empathy they can elicit from the judges.
If IVF Centers want to give away cycles to couples in need – and really want to do it out of the goodness of their hearts – my suggestion is not to give interviews, put out press releases or put the patients on display. My advice is to do this with true compassion: do it quietly.
And it’s time for ASRM to take a look at this practice, and decide if they think it is truly ethical – or if they too feel that “Ick Factor”.
What are other bloggers saying?
Keiko Zoll says that this is a call for the passage of infertility coverage! For financial relief. For fairness not begging! That this would not exist if infertility was covered like any other disease. I agree! Read what Keiko has to say!
What do you think? I would love to know!