The Sher Institute, a network of eight fertility clinics in
the USA, has announced the three couples to win an IVF giveaway contest.
The Institute announced the competition for a cycle of free
IVF treatment in May. Couples were asked to make a
video no longer than five minutes about their struggle to start a family.
The 'I Believe Video Journal Project' was entered by 45
couples and was part of the Institute's 'Giving Back' initiative, aimed at
helping couples in the USA that need advanced fertility treatment,
but cannot afford it.
A panel of specialists from varying areas of fertility
treatment chose six finalists. Their videos were put on the Sher Institute's
Facebook site, where the public cast their votes on which of the couples most deserved the $12,000 procedure.
Initially the Institute had planned on granting the prize to
just one finalist. But before results were announced on 15 June, it was decided
that three couples were to be awarded.
'There are so many couples in need of help to conceive, and
every one of them has a unique and compelling story', said Dr Geoffrey Sher
founder and executive medical director of the Institute. 'We are happy to be
able to help in a small way through this contest'.
magazine reports that even some of the judges questioned the competition's ethics. 'It felt like
playing God', Erika Tabke told the publication. 'As I selected them, I
thought, this is unfair'.
As founder of IVF Connections, a website for people going
through infertility, she applauded Sher for his generosity but doubts she'll
serve as a judge again.
Elsewhere in Time's feature, Dr Samantha Pfeifer, an associate professor
of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Pennsylvania and chair of
the American Society for Reproductive Medicine's practice committee, called the competition 'a publicity manoeuvre'.
'What makes it weird is that you're creating a life, and
that puts it into a different category', she said. 'But if you think of it as a
medical procedure you have to pay cash for, you could think of it as giving
away a free car. We need a car, but we can't afford it - let's go for it'.
Since founding the Institute in the 1980s, Dr Geoffrey Sher has organised
several similar competitions. Some winners have been randomly selected, others chosen
by a 'hardship committee' and more recently an essay competition was organised.
Dr Sher posted a response to the
Time article on the Institute's website. He says that 'while this is relatively
uncharted territory, my experience over the years in donating treatments and
discounting services through non-profit organisations, has convinced me that as
long as we do this with the proper intent, with humility and with empathy, we
are doing the right thing'.