Homepage  /  News

Lord Winston claims IVF clinics exploit couples

Katy Sinclair

Progress Educational Trust

05 June 2007

| | | |
[BioNews, London] Lord Winston has spoken out to criticise IVF clinics, citing corruption within the industry and the exploitation of couples being charged inflated prices for IVF treatment and associated genetic tests. The Professor of Fertility Studies at Imperial College London, speaking at the Guardian Hay festival, also criticised the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) for failing to protect women seeking IVF treatment.

Lord Winston claims that the industry has become corrupted by the vast sums of money it has attracted, with the IVF industry in the UK now worth up to ?500 million per year. In 2005 more than 30,000 patients underwent more than 40,000 treatment cycles. There are 85 licensed fertility clinics in the UK, where the costs of private treatment are between ?4,000 and ?8,000 per IVF cycle.

Lord Winston levelled the charge that IVF has become a 'massive commercial industry', able to exploit women through their desperation to obtain the technology that will enable them to become pregnant. Lord Winston criticised clinics in London that were making huge sums of money through IVF, stating that, 'it is really rather depressing to consider that some IVF treatments in London are charged at 10 times the fee that is charged in Melbourne, where there is excellent medicine, where IVF is just as successful, where they have comparable salaries'.

The fertility expert also criticised the myriad of genetic tests offered to couples undergoing IVF, which were often misrepresented, invariably costly, and not, in his opinion, clinically justified. One such technique claims to use florescent markers to stain defective parts of an embryo's chromosomes, and is used to identify unviable embryos. However, the most advanced form of the test can only be used to examine a small part of an embryo's genome. The test is sold to couples at ?2,000 a time with the claim that it enables the selection of healthy embryos for implantation. Lord Winston has countered that the test cannot possibly obtain such knowledge about the genome, and assertions that an embryo has been identified as chromosomally healthy are lies.

Lord Winston also criticised the HFEA for its poor record on providing information for couples and for failing to protect women against exploitation by IVF clinics. In addition, he said that the HFEA had not 'limited the number of unscientific treatments people have access to, it doesn't prevent sex selection and all sorts of other things people don't like because there are all sorts of ways around the law'.

In response, an HFEA spokesman defended the organisation, stating that to their knowledge all IVF clinics abided by the regulations. The HFEA stated that, 'all hospitals and clinics that offer IVF treatment in the UK are regulated by the HFEA. We do have strict guidelines they follow, including a code of practice that clearly states that sex selection for social reasons is not allowed'. The HFEA maintains that any patient wishing to undergo IVF had the relevant information available to them.

© Copyright Progress Educational Trust

Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.

Share IVF News on FaceBook   Share IVF News on Google+   Share IVF News on Twitter

Page Views: 4967
Add to Favorites | Reply to Ad | Tell Your Friends
Date Added: 05 June 2007   Date Updated: 10 June 2007
Customer Reviews (2)
write a review
Dr David Robertson   06 June 2007

Well, it pains me to say this, because sometimes I think the good Lord Winston has made a mission out of bashing private IVF clinics, but in this case, he is absolutely right. The phenomenon is not confined to the UK - here in the Gulf, exactly the same thing happens where clinics offer poor treatment with no scientific basis simply to make money and cash in on couples' desperation. In the UK, at least, if there was more comprehensive NHS support for infertile couples, there would perhaps be less need for the plethora of private units. I have worked in them myself for many years before coming here. Unfortunately, however, many people believe that if they pay for something, it will be better and the more expensive, the better it is. This doesn't just apply to IVF - it's human nature! IVF clinics need to be more tightly regulated and the treatments offered scrutinised to ensure that they are evidence-based, that adequate standards are met and that appropriately qualified staff are employed.
Shantal Rajah   06 June 2007

I agree with Prof Winston, the prices are very high compared to other countires of the world. Patients go thrugh a lot of stress and hardship.The recent high prices is due to the recent criteria imposed by HFEA/EUTD regulation. The clinics charge on patients to cover cost of EUTD regulation. To meet this criteria and extra work the clinic needs more funding and staff. HFEA knows this and do not consider to sort this problem. It is easy to blame other party for the failure. I think HFEA should take responsibilty of staff numbers/clinic/ treatment and treatment prices. HFEA had taken responsibility of single embryo transfer and spent time and money on publications and consultation meetings to safe guard the patients (as they say). It is time for HFEA to take care and some responsibility on patient's treatment cost and treatment plan /clinic and staff/treatment cycles. Lastly I want say very clearly, this comment is not based on the clinic I work. It is my observation/ experience and feeling which I have working in this field for many years.

Join Our Newsletter - Don't Miss Anything!!!

Stay in touch with the latest news by subscribing to our regular email newsletters