Last updated November 10, 2017 at 11:53 am
Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) like in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) are under the spotlight after a new study reveals a clear indication of conflicts of interest within the industry, which could have negative impacts on the health of patients.
Of every 25 babies who open their eyes for the first time to a ‘G’day’ from their Aussie parents, one of them was helped into the world by assisted reproductive technology. One of the most common forms is IVF, and dedicated clinics in Australia are growing in numbers and capacity.
But if these clinics are expected to make a profit – which most, as businesses, certainly are – conflicts of interest are quick to arise. A new study sheds light on just how these conflicts manifest, and while it’s a messy situation there are certain undeniable trends. The researchers from Macquarite University and the University of Sydney interviewed eight industry professionals, including policy advisors, researchers, counsellors and clinical specialists. They’re quick to point out that eight isn’t a huge number of people, but considering the background on the issue and the in-depth quality of the interviews, the data collected is very valuable.
If this issue affects you, it’s worth reading through the study itself, but here are a few key findings:
- Doctors and clinicians who become business-owners struggle to balance their responsibilities to staff and stake-holders, and their responsibilities to patients
- To increase profits and success rates, clinics are being encouraged to overuse IVF. Sometimes they treat a patient with IVF when they don’t really need it, which drives up the rate of healthy pregnancies. And sometimes they prescribe extra cycles of IVF that aren’t strictly necessary.
- To make IVF more attractive, some clinics are changing their pricing models to make less invasive procedures more expensive, causing IVF to seem more economical.
- Clinics can take advantage of Medicare to defray certain costs.
- Patients seeking IVF are particularly vulnerable, and thus susceptible to sales tactics and questionable advice.
The authors are transparent about how complex this issue is, and that this story is messy. It’s suggested that with more education and a change in culture, patients could overcome these conflicts of interest and become savvy consumers.
Whether that’s possible for a problem that is so personal and emotional is still to be seen. Until we figure out where patients fit in the hierarchy of interests around assisted reproductive technology, these issues will keep being a problem.