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Rachel Gurevich

IVF Raffles: A Special Opportunity or Icky Marketing?

By October 21, 2012

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The topic of IVF raffles is in the news again. If you don't know what an IVF raffle is, it's when clinics offer the chance to "win" a free IVF cycle by either entering your name and contact details or entering with an essay or video. (See the NYT article on this here.) I've written on these raffles before, specifically on egg donor raffles, and expressed my dislike for them.

But in this NYT article, what really got to me was the video entry (you can watch it here) from one winner of such a raffle. In this particular raffle, the judges would pick the most heartbreaking/creative video as a winner. I watched the winning video, and as I watched this poor woman cry, I felt like someone reached into my chest and squeezed my heart. It made me sad, it made me sick, and it made me cry.

Not because there is anything wrong with this woman telling her story. I'm a big advocate of telling our stories. But the idea that she "won" an IVF cycle based on her heartache upset me. Angered me. Who are we to judge who has the most heartbreaking story? Who are we to give a free IVF cycle to one woman and not another based on her creativity? Who are we to take these heartbreaking stories and turn them into a marketing campaign for a clinic?

I have no doubt in my heart that the winner deserved to win. But I also have no doubt that all the other entries deserved to win as well.

A fertility clinic director interviewed in the article said while they "hesitate" to call it marketing (Why hesitate? It is marketing. It's certainly not charity.), they held a raffle to "get their name" out there. What I found most interesting in the comments were fertility challenged saying while the raffles may not be 100% ethically pure, they are "necessary" or should at least be tolerated since it may be the only chance for some couples to conceive with insurance coverage.

But that's not true.

What I mean to say is it doesn't have to be true. And I'm not talking about advocating for insurance companies to cover infertility (which of course we should be doing), nor am I addressing getting legislation passed to make IVF more affordable (which is also important, Keiko of The Infertile Voice puts it well here.) All those are important. But beyond that, clinics could help clients who can't afford treatment and market themselves without lowering themselves to these icky marketing schemes.

What if clinics would hold a normal raffle with a cash prize? Open to anyone (including friends and family of infertiles), with the premise that funds raised beyond the cash prize (say of $5,000 for a grand prize) would go towards need-based-grants? What if clinics held Chinese Auctions? Or what about a comedy night to destress, open to all, with the idea that, again, funds raised would go towards those in need of IVF funding? Or if they must include a "fertility service" in their raffle, raffle of mind-body treatments or acupuncture.

But raffling off free IVF cycles to the infertile with the best heartbreaking story? Please. It's just wrong.

What do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you!

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