For the past few weeks, the big controversy in the fertility world has focused on the ethics of giving away fertility treatment, specifically an egg donor IVF cycle. Fertility clinics in the United States have been holding raffles like these for years, where couples can "win" either part of a fertility treatment cycle, or a full cycle, including egg or sperm provided by a donor.
Typically, it's done as a publicity stunt by the clinic. In other words, "Come to our informational meeting, and maybe you'll be the lucky winner of an IVF cycle." Or, "Write us an essay that moves our heart on why you should receive a free IVF cycle."
Fertility treatment is extremely costly, and when egg donation is involved, one cycle can cost up to $25,000 (and sometimes a bit more). I understand the temptation to enter raffles like these, especially for those who could not afford treatment otherwise.
But as for the clinics doing the raffles, it all feels a bit icky to me. I understand that treatment doesn't always lead to a baby (and perhaps that is one of the many reasons it feels icky), but when I see these raffles being offered, I read them as saying, "Win a chance to have a child! Luck has not been on your side yet, but perhaps through our marketing-inspired lottery, you'll finally get lucky and win a baby!"
And no, I'm not getting into the entire debate on when life begins. However, when I see these raffles, that's what it feels like to me.
Plus, you're not even guaranteeing the winner a baby. You're winning the chance to take another chance, really. IVF is not guaranteed, no matter how great a clinic's success rate is. If the treatment doesn't work, will the clinic also pay for adoption costs (also typically high) if that's the couple's wish?
I also have to concur with Pamela Madsen's point, which she wrote about on her blog The Fertility Advocate, that we must also consider the donor's feelings. How would we feel if we knew our eggs or sperm or embryo, something that was part of us, were being raffled off? Especially as part of a marketing plan by some clinic?
Like I said -- icky. It feels icky.
That said, I do know that the cost of fertility treatment is high, and I do like the idea of couples getting a break in some way. But how about instead of a clinic raffling off treatment or donor gametes to one couple, they instead gave everyone in the clinic a few hundred dollars -- or a couple thousand dollars -- break.
The clinic gets to market themselves ("Every year, we choose one month randomly to give our clients a big break in price!"), and lots of couples who were already going through treatment get a deal. That feels less icky to me.
What are your thoughts? Do you think raffling off IVF treatment or donor gametes should be allowed? How would you feel if it were your eggs or sperm or embryos being raffled off? (Yes, even if you agreed, how would you feel about it?)
Share your thoughts in the comments, I'd love to hear from you.