For many couples in the UK, the journey to becoming parents can be incredibly difficult. Jennifer O'Leary, a reporter for Spotlight at BBC Northern Ireland, investigated a Belfast clinic that claimed to have developed a new technique for patients struggling with fertility, that has reportedly led to the birth of 1700 babies.
The recent documentary, 'The Babymaker Uncovered', investigated Logan Wellbeing and Medical clinic, a practice found on one of Belfast's busiest shopping streets, that offers a medical and naturopathic solution to infertility. Ruth Ellen Logan's treatment involved Logan's patented technique of abdominal massage with intravenous therapies and vitamin injections. With Logan reporting an 86 percent increased success rate when her techniques were used alongside IVF, and her direct promises to patients of a baby, Logan has been seen by many as the 'lady that answered all your prayers'.
By sending journalists undercover into the clinic, viewers were given an honest panorama of Logan's practice. During the first appointment, Logan informs the journalist within minutes that a round of IVF would be detrimental to her chances of conceiving, but that the clinic could offer a solution to her problems in the form of intravenous and intramuscular therapies. Professor Alison Murdoch, an internationally renowned fertility specialist, told O'Leary that infertility is a diagnosis that relies on a much more extensive patient history from both partners involved, alongside further explorative investigations into the cause of the couple's infertility. In an interview, a former patient of Logan's told O'Leary that her partner was not allowed into the consultation room. Infertility can affect both men and women. It seems absurd that Logan could confidently provide women with a 'solution' to conception without even exploring this possibility.
What was possibly even more shocking to me was seeing Logan assure the journalist that she did not have endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome, simply through abdominal massage. As many sufferers will likely explain, reaching a diagnosis for conditions like these can be extremely lengthy and one that cannot be made by external examination alone. Logan's claim that she can make an on-spot diagnosis of these conditions is completely baffling.
But of course, how were patients to know that the care they were receiving was anything less than professional? A former patient told O'Leary that she was under the impression that Logan was a medically trainer doctor, after all, she had been writing scripts of medication, ordering, and interpreting her blood results and even writing 'Dr Ruth Logan' on forms. During Spotlight's investigation, Logan told the undercover journalist that while she was not a doctor, she had received extensive training in a remote area of the USA in the clinical aspects of medicine. Watching the appointment back, Professor Raanan Gillon, a former GP and medical ethics expert said he could understand why any patient would think she was a medically trained practitioner and found what he saw to be very worrying.
In a very honest interview, a former patient told O'Leary that Logan had placed her on a double dose of dexamethasone twice a week for six weeks to reduce her miscarriage risk prior to conception. In addition, when the patient went on to receive IVF, Logan encouraged her to take additional prednisolone to prepare her body. These medications are potent steroids and have the potential to cause severe side-effects if not used correctly or under careful medical supervision. Professor Murdoch explained how steroids would not be licensed for the treatment of infertility and that she would not have given the drug 'full stop'. With all medications, patients should be made aware of the risks before taking them which the patient believes she was never informed of.
One of the first questions that came to mind when hearing the patient's story was: 'How can someone without a license to prescribe, have access to not only prescription medications, but unlicensed drugs?'. Spotlight revealed that Logan had been accessing pharmaceuticals from a doctor within Reviv, a clinic specialising in IV therapies, and with whom the Logan clinic had a franchise agreement. In addition, the director of the company had been supplying blank signed prescriptions that Logan could use to order in products from Reviv.
Fertility Is such an emotive topic. Individuals are understandably open to try anything that could increase their chances of pregnancy. Treatments can add up with some couples experiencing financial consequences as a result. O'Leary's documentary highlights how vulnerability may be exploited for financial gain in such a candid yet sensitive way. With testimonies from professors specialised in fertility, and eye-opening videos of Logan's practice, I would recommend this documentary to anyone wanting to gain a greater appreciation for the misleading and potentially harmful practices that are still occurring within the field. If clinics like Logan's can advertise their arguably unethical practices on platforms such as Facebook and get away with it, how many other clinics are doing the same? Furthermore, should the UK be doing more to protect its vulnerable patients from these exploitations?