That IVF Sausage Factory

IVF is a Sausage Factory I was not Prepared For…

So writes Professor James Arvanitakis in an essay for The Sydney Morning Herald.

Oh how we hear you, James. We are immensely grateful for your honesty. In a few paragraphs you painted a clear picture of what it feels like to be on the receiving end of IVF.

“It all begins nicely. You personally meet the doctor in beautiful offices. Everyone treats you like a VIP whispering that the doctor has made so many families happy. It is private, serene, sophisticated, boutique.”

With deft writing you exposed the bait and switch tactics central to IVF clinic operators — once they have your money, that is.

Into the Sausage Factory

We handed over our first $10,000 payment and it is then that everything changes as you enter the sausage factory…

We know what’s coming James. It still hurts to know you and others are treated as badly as we once were.

We went through this process three times and all three pregnancies resulted in miscarriages. They were brutal and heartbreaking. We cried and had to mourn children that were never born. It is impossible to explain the loss and no words can capture the experience.

The response from the IVF clinic was ruthless.

Unlike the clinic operators, we mourn your brutal and heartbreaking miscarriages.

We are equally appalled and familiar with the ruthless, dismissive and money-grubbing response from the IVF clinic staff.

Our very successful and friendly doctor disappeared. All of a sudden, he was ‘very busy’ and we had to seek advice from others. We could make an appointment to see him but that would cost hundreds of dollars – even if all we wanted was a brief conversation about our options.”

It’s head-spinning how quickly IVF clinics abandon patients whose bodies and bank accounts don’t perform.

We were asked to either pay up or drop out of the program. In the end we stopped the process, and decided to get out of the sausage factory. The response from the clinic? Silence for at least four months. The first contact was to confirm that another couple would be accessing the donor. No inquiry about our own well-being. No duty of care. No follow up.

Ditto on the no duty of care. No follow up. Sadly, the IVF clinic business model works because the industry successfully cultivates a superficial, contrived image of baby dream makers. Look no further than this past week’s annual propaganda campaign to drive more revenue.

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Co-opted by the Sausage Factory

National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) started as a grassroots education initiative. I once supported RESOLVE and ended up on its mailing list. I’ve watched as they’ve cozied up to deep-pocketed sponsors.

In recent years it’s all but become a mouthpiece for the IVF industry. The NIAW “partners” — mega IVF clinics, Big Pharma and medical financing outfits — are profit-driven entities that stand to gain handsomely by selling more cycles.

What better marketing effort could be had?  It’s cost-effective (e.g. free advertising) and who needs to pay copy writers or content providers when they have artfully enlisted patient-consumers and bloggers to do their sales lead generation.

You gotta hand it to them. A+ for strategy and execution

I would, however, assign an “F” for putting the RESOLVE president in the middle of a Wall Street trading floor with a well-funded, yes, profit-driven startup, Progyny, to ring the bell. In a word: Bold. However, not good optics, folks.  Might suggest you do a better job of toning down your financial/industry ties. How much did RESOLVE spend (or take?) to send its president to NYC?

It’s one thing if I notice, but what happens when your followers and other watchdog groups start questioning your motives.

Changing the Narrative — and the Reality

That’s why I was doubly glad to see the sausage factory headline appear when it did. The essay dropped at the same time the IVF industry was revving up its propaganda machine.  Professor James Arvanitakis gave us permission to include his essay on ReproTechTruths. We welcome your stories as a way to broaden and change the narrative. We hope our efforts help alter the reality so that  others never have to experience the sausage factory.

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Caring, Responsible Evidenced-Based Medicine

p.s. I was struck this week by a different sort of healthcare experience.  During a routine teeth cleaning appointment my dentist flagged what he thought might be the start of a tooth infection. A seamless referral took me to an endodontist who carefully reviewed my xrays and engaged in a comprehensive exam. In a kind and caring demeanor, he concluded (and I quote): “Your tooth appears healthy and vital. I see no evidence-based medical reason to engage in any further treatment.”  He proceeded to answer all my questions and told me it wouldn’t be right to take my money or to put me through any unnecessary pain or inconvenience. The dentist office called the next day to see how I was doing. See? Not so hard.