For many, having children is an important goal, and when they find that for some reason they cannot, it can be heart wrenching. Couples can go through years of suffering attempting to conceive, only to find that they are infertile. When this is discovered, some couples resort to expensive fertility procedures in an attempt to have a child. One fertility clinic though, decided to capitalize on the desperation of would-be parents by holding a contest offering free in vitro fertilization to the winners.
According to the CDC, 11.8% of women are infertile and 7.3 million of them have used infertility services. These services are extremely expensive though, and many couples cannot afford them. Because the services are elective, competition for clients is fierce in the fertility market. The Sher Fertility Institute decided to embark on a marketing campaign in which couples would compete for their services through a video contest. Forty-five hopeful couples submitted heart-breaking videos about their struggle to conceive, hoping to woo the judges and win one free cycle of in vitro fertilization. Only three couples could win, but the amount of attention the institute received more than accomplished their goal of marketing exposure. Critics of the contest believe that the institute is making light of a very serious situation though, and that they are taking advantage of the desperation of infertile couples in order to boost sales. With contestants who have suffered five or six miscarriages and even a stillbirth, it seems cruel to get their hopes up with a contest that appears to be the miracle they’ve been waiting for. Additionally, it doesn’t cause other couples, watching the contest, to consider all aspects of making such a decision.
For the most part, experts seem to agree that in vitro fertilization is safe. However, they also warn against complications and want would-be parents to be aware of the risks they’re taking. Professor Nygren, a speaker at the World Congress of Fertility and Sterility in Munich, concluded that there are low levels of increased problems which can come with in vitro fertilization, but these “may be due to the fact that all patients undergoing IVF procedures are patients who already have reproductive problems.” He also pointed out that there seem to be more complications associated with those who opt for Multiple Embryo Transfer instead of Single Embryo Transfer.
Although the winners of the Sher contest are likely ecstatic at their free IVF cycle, many others are disgusted by the institute’s advertising practices. If you and your partner are struggling to have a child, be sure to speak with your OB/GYN about all of your options before jumping into a contest where doctors are playing god for a bigger paycheck.
- Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.