Clinic offers free IVF treatment to winners of video competition
Jessica Ware, Progress Educational Trust
30 June 2012

[BioNews, London]

The Sher Institute, a network of eight fertility clinics in the USA, has announced the three couples to win an IVF giveaway contest.

The Institute announced the competition for a cycle of free IVF treatment in May. Couples were asked to make a video no longer than five minutes about their struggle to start a family.

The 'I Believe Video Journal Project' was entered by 45 couples and was part of the Institute's 'Giving Back' initiative, aimed at helping couples in the USA that need advanced fertility treatment, but cannot afford it.

A panel of specialists from varying areas of fertility treatment chose six finalists. Their videos were put on the Sher Institute's Facebook site, where the public cast their votes on which of the couples most deserved the $12,000 procedure.

Initially the Institute had planned on granting the prize to just one finalist. But before results were announced on 15 June, it was decided that three couples were to be awarded.

'There are so many couples in need of help to conceive, and every one of them has a unique and compelling story', said Dr Geoffrey Sher founder and executive medical director of the Institute. 'We are happy to be able to help in a small way through this contest'.

But Time magazine reports that even some of the judges questioned the competition's ethics. 'It felt like playing God', Erika Tabke told the publication. 'As I selected them, I thought, this is unfair'.

As founder of IVF Connections, a website for people going through infertility, she applauded Sher for his generosity but doubts she'll serve as a judge again.

Elsewhere in Time's feature, Dr Samantha Pfeifer, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Pennsylvania and chair of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine's practice committee, called the competition 'a publicity manoeuvre'.

'What makes it weird is that you're creating a life, and that puts it into a different category', she said. 'But if you think of it as a medical procedure you have to pay cash for, you could think of it as giving away a free car. We need a car, but we can't afford it - let's go for it'.

Since founding the Institute in the 1980s, Dr Geoffrey Sher has organised several similar competitions. Some winners have been randomly selected, others chosen by a 'hardship committee' and more recently an essay competition was organised.

Dr Sher posted a response to the Time article on the Institute's website. He says that 'while this is relatively uncharted territory, my experience over the years in donating treatments and discounting services through non-profit organisations, has convinced me that as long as we do this with the proper intent, with humility and with empathy, we are doing the right thing'.
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Reproduced from BioNews with permission, a web- and email-based source of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and human genetics, published by Progress Educational Trust.

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