I’ve just been reading about a woman in the States who had successful IVF and gave birth to twins – after winning her treatment in a competition. The woman and her husband had been through tests and unsuccessful treatment, and won the competition by writing an essay about their experiences. After getting through to the finals, they then had to spread their story online as widely as they could – and a winner was selected from the finalists by getting the public to vote for who they wanted to win.
This kind of competition may seem attractive if it’s the only way you’ll be able to access the treatment you need – but would people really choose to lay bear their emotions and the most intimate details of their lives if they didn’t have to? It feels like the ultimate exploitation to me – not only are you getting people to compete for access to medical treatment, you are using their anguish for your own publicity purposes. The cost of one free cycle of treatment is peanuts to a clinic – especially when they are profiting from the publicity for offering a potentially happy ending to a tear-jerking story which has gone viral.
Reading stories like this always makes me wonder how people would react if such competitions involved other medical conditions – “Reveal all about your heart condition, and win the chance to have a by-pass”, “Tell your story about how arthritis cripples your life and if you manage to make enough people feel sorry for you, you may get treatment”… Critics often claim that infertility is different because it isn’t life-threatening, but I think we’d have qualms about treatment being offered in this way for most other medical conditions – the only real difference is that infertility treatment has become a hugely profitable industry, and clinics are using ever more “inventive” ways to get their names heard.