Thursday, 2 August 2012

Flog it!

I recently bought a paper which, to my surprise, had a supplement on fertility treatment. Like most supplements, it was basically a vehicle for advertising, but the blurb on the front claimed it contained up to date information on treatments.

It didn't, as far as I could see. One of the few bits of editorial claimed that 'new treatments' could boost IVF success rates from 50% to 80%. But didn't give any detail on what those treatments were. The editorial also mentioned that infertility could be very difficult and that, basically, it wasn't only older women who suffered from it. That was really about it on the practical and emotional side - the rest was adverts.

And bad adverts at that. They made me cringe. One clinic, in the Bahamas, inferred that you'd do much better there as you'd be relaxed. The Lister had an ad encouraging readers to go there to egg share to save on costs. Another advert had dotted lines around the margins and encouraged you to cut it out and keep it - like it was a coupon for tinned beans (although it didn't promise a discount if you brought the token to the gynaecologist).

I don't really have a problem with people paying for IVF. I wish it was more widely available on the NHS. But it isn't, so people have to pay.

What I do object to is the whole thing being so monumentally tacky, and the idea that it's merely a case of picking the clinic and parting with the money. Egg sharing is a bit more complex than just getting a discount. The 50% success rate is unlikely, never mind the 80%. You can't relax yourself into getting pregnant.

I can't imagine such a thing being produced for any other form of illness. Plenty of people use private healthcare for all manner of illnesses, but surely no-one would produce a supplement in a national newspaper filled with adverts from cancer clinics vying for custom (Perhaps there are and I just haven't seen them. But it just seems repellant).

Maybe, just like any number of other products, the advertising for infertility treatment needs to be regulated. Fucking with your hormones, your emotions and your future can be bad for your health. At least compelling fertility clinics to link ads to a government website giving relatively unbiased facts would help.

But anyone who has ever seriously considered fertility treatment knows that it's an expensive and uncertain procedure. I suppose my main worry is that casual readers might pick up an advertising supplement for IVF, flick through it and get the idea that using assisted reproduction is perhaps easier than going to the dentists and that you can have a holiday at the same time... it doesn't really help anyone.

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