U.S. fertility clinic gives away controversial IVF treatments via video contest

Sheryl Nadler
Shine On

For couples trying to conceive with the help of fertility treatments, the costs can weigh heavily on their minds and bank accounts. So when an American infertility clinic offered a free cycle of IVF treatments to the winners of their Father's Day video contest, 45 couples jumped at the chance.

The Sher Institutes for Reproductive Medicine asked participants to submit entries that "could include music, photos, video, or anything else that conveyed their feelings about their struggles to conceive, their plans for the future, and their desires to complete their family." The six finalists videos were posted to the company website to be voted on by the judges and the general public.

Also see: Birth photographers in delivery rooms: The new photography frontier?

Three lucky couples won a free cycle of IVF treatments through the contest and all 45 videos were posted to the company's website after the winners were announced. One of the winning couples had endured three failed adoptions, five miscarriages and the stillbirth of a full-term boy, reports TIME.

Not surprisingly, the contest drew both acclaim and criticism from the community, the story says. On the one hand, the clinic provided an opportunity for couples desperate to start a family but who might not otherwise be able to afford fertility treatments. On the other hand, the contest has been criticized as an exploitative marketing ploy, reports TIME.

Joy Al-Massaad, IVF coordinator at New Life Fertility Centres in Ontario, sympathizes with couples who are struggling with infertility, particularly those who can't afford the pricey IVF treatments, she says. The cost for one IVF cycle can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $12,000 and her centre has occasionally given away IVF cycles to couples whose circumstances merited it. They also offer financial aid to qualifying couples with lower incomes.

Also see: Smoking, drinking, and being overweight doesn't affect men's sperm: study

The Sher Institute's IVF cycle giveaway was generous, says Al-Massaad, but she feels it should have been handled privately and not through a contest.

"I don't really think the way it was done with the publicity was the best thing — it was all over Facebook and everywhere," she says. "However I do understand and I think it's a great thing that they did — a generous thing to help people."

"I definitely think it's a great idea to help people out, especially people who have lower incomes and may really need it," she continues. "But not in that way where they have to expose all their emotions in order to get what they need."

Judging would have been very difficult, too, says Al-Massaad, who has seen her share of couples crumple in devastation when they learn of the costs associated with IVF.

"Who am I to judge and say you deserve this more than you?" she asks.

Watch the video below for tips from a doctor about how to get your baby to sleep well.