Commentary: Baby contests make spectacle of IVF procedure

In a country where a good portion of the people have gambled at least once in their lives, it's normal to hear people say, "If I won the lottery, I would buy ...."

How far is this country willing to take its gambling obsession, and is it OK to hold in vitro fertilization giveaways, especially with the promotion, "Win a free baby"? To conceive a baby through IVF already is a gamble.

According to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies (SART), which contains national data on fertility success rates, the highest rate of pregnancy from IVF cycles is 46.2%. Thus it would be hard to promise someone a "free baby."

The head of one fertility institution calls these IVF giveaways a "real feel-good operation." Who is feeling good about this operation? His position is outlined in a 2012 Time magazine article, "Baby Contest: Couples Compete for Free IVF — Is This Exploitation or Generosity?"

Contests such as these allow a panel of judges to decide which three couples deserve a free IVF cycle based on videos that they submit.

I work at a fertility center and sympathize with many women who have the same goal as the applicants submitting videos to this contest. Infertility is a tough thing to deal with, causing pain and frustration for many people. So it is unethical to judge a couple more deserving of a cycle than the next.

Having a baby is not like winning the lottery or a car.

Contests such as these demean life and feed on our gambling obsession.

The question that should be asked is this: What is the motive? In my opinion, fertility centers that host such contests may be trying to promote their businesses and bring in new customers. But if the fertility centers truly want to be generous and offer free IVF cycles, I believe they need to rethink how they go about doing so.

Generosity could come in so many forms, including helping women with the cost of medications (which range from $5,000 to $10,000 ), perhaps by giving patients facing financial hardships donated medications or samples provided by pharmaceutical companies.

There are ways to make IVF more affordable for those who really have struggled with infertility and the costs of the procedures. Practically giving away a "free baby" is not how to promote your fertility center.

KAITLIN MENSING is a graduating senior in public health science at UC Irvine.

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