I'm ok with raffles for fertility treatment

Some fertility clinics are holding contests and raffles to win a free round of in vitro fertilization treatment, which is worth about $10,000 to $15,000. A Boston Globe article (Fertility clinics’ raffles ruffle feathers) raises concerns about the ethics behind such actions.

‘‘It is against the law to raffle off a puppy, but we’re allowed to raffle off the opportunity to have a baby?’’ said Pamela Madsen, a founder and former executive director of the American Fertility Association, a nonprofit organization based in New York City. ‘‘What if they were raffling off chemotherapy? Would we be OK with that?’’

…medical ethicists fear the contests exploit vulnerable people and trivialize human conception. British authorities have condemned the giveaways, and an Australian government official has proposed banning them, yet they have become increasingly common, particularly in the United States.

Some people are fine with the contests — particularly infertile people who see them as adding some fairness to a system that favors the wealthy.

I agree that it’s a bit unsettling to read about contests that require contestants to submit videos or stories about why they’re the most disturbing. But it’s disappointing that the article (originally appearing in the New York Times) completely skipped over the issue of insurance coverage for infertility.

According to Fertility LifeLines, 15 states mandate insurance coverage for infertility treatment. The article talks about a contest in New York, which is one of the states with mandates. However, the New York mandate excludes IVF treatment. The other example from the article is from Utah, a non-mandate states. Some states, including Massachusetts, do include IVF within the mandate. I doubt we have such contests here, but I would be interested to know.

So here’s my take: it’s ok to sniff at unseemly marketing techniques for infertility clinics as long as you’re willing to enter into a discussion of insurance coverage –including public funding– for such services.


October 22, 2012

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