Australian IVF under fire for conflict of interest and misleading advertising

Xavier Symons
June 4, 2016
Reproduced with Permission

IVF companies in Australia have come under fire following a Four Corners investigation .

The report, aired on ABC TV on Monday, contained interviews with several couples who had undergone unsuccessful - and at times, exceedingly painful and distressing - IVF treatments.

The report also explored conflicts of interest and alleged widespread deceptive practices in the IVF industry.

Writing in The Conversation , researchers from Sydney University's VELIM Centre and Macquarie University said that concerns about conflicts of interest in the IVF industry must not be dismissed.

"Four Corners highlighted the conflicted nature of commercialised IVF, where some IVF doctors are more concerned about their own interests (making money for themselves or their clinics) than they are about their patients."

It is therefore not unreasonable for people to be concerned some clinicians may be motivated (perhaps unconsciously) by financial conflicts of interest to make decisions that may not be in the best interests of their patients.

Macquarie University health law expert Sonia Allan said serious questions need to be asked of the IVF industry in Australia:

"I think there are ethical issues surrounding the unlimited amount of public funding that is being put towards some of these treatments, and probably perverse incentives for doctors to continue with these treatments because of the increased money that can be made, particularly when the industry has become so commercialised."

Allan suggested that there is need for external regulation of the IVF industry.

Professor Rob Norman , an Adelaide doctor who is a world authority on reproductive health, told Four Corners of his dismay at the increasing commercialistion of IVF. "I think with the commercialisation of IVF that's occurring, there's a pressure in every single clinic to use IVF more, and IVF brings in more money for a clinic," he said. Furthermore, for some women who go through the painful and stressful experience of IVF, it was not really necessary. Cheaper and simpler methods would have worked just as well for them.

The program also featured one of the pioneers of Australian IVF, Professor Gab Kovacs, who made the extraordinary admission that he had once given a woman 37 IVF cycles. "You can't say No" to a woman who is desperate to have a child, he told the journalist. "Embryos are like mud; you keep putting embyros on the wall of the uterus and eventually one will stick."