Don’t dismiss conflict-of-interest concerns in IVF, they have a basis

02 June 2016

It’s estimated over 5 million children have been born worldwide as a result of assisted reproductive technology treatments. Assisted reproductive technology, an umbrella term that includes in vitro fertilisation (IVF), is a highly profitable global industry, and fertility clinics are increasingly regarded as an attractive investment option. In 2014, two major IVF clinics - Virtus and Monash IVF — floated on the stock exchange. Excited financial analysts observed at the time that: people will pay almost anything to have a baby. Over the past 12 months, there have been numerous critical media analyses of the IVF industry in Australia, including Monday night’s ABC Four Corners program, The Baby Business. The episode suggested IVF doctors are recommending treatments that are expensive, unsafe and likely to be futile. The following morning the Fertility Society of Australia rejected these assertions, saying: Four Corners presented no evidence to support these claims. One of the claims made in the program was that IVF doctors have a financial incentive to treat women with the more invasive practice of IVF. The program suggested this financial incentive conflicts with the doctor’s duty of care towards the patient. 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. Not surprisingly, the Fertility Society of Australia strongly denied such conflicts of interest exist. It argued that the profession is both highly ethical and highly regulated.