In the past I’ve signed up for raffles hoping to win everything from a new car to salad tongs that were carved from drumsticks supposedly owned by Ringo Starr, but this giveaway takes the cake. In an effort to grab market share and increase their mailing lists fertility clinics around the country are raffling off free rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF). All you have to do is jump through hoops that are akin to dressing up like a monkey and singing the Star Spangled Banner in Chinese on America’s Got Talent.
You think I’m kidding?
Check out this October 20th New York Times article by Douglas Quenqua entitled Clinic Raffles Could Make you a Winner, and Maybe a Mother. I about fell off my chair when I read it. For the mere cost of entering a 5K race or producing your own heart-wrenching YouTube video that brings you dangerously close to becoming an honorary Kardashian, you could win the opportunity to let a lesser-known fertility clinic arrange for your (or your spouse’s) DNA to go on a blind date in a petri dish. It’s kind of like Match.com for microorganisms.
Fertility Sweepstakes? Seriously?
The ethical questions abound here. On the one hand you can say it levels the playing field for people who can’t afford expensive fertility treatments. Or at least it levels the playing field for one lucky winner. Those who don’t win get to suffer yet another fertility heartache while digressing back to square one.
The real winners in this case are the fertility clinics. They increase their mailing lists and visibility considerably by hosting these contests. You could say it’s either genius marketing or an unscrupulous attempt to play off the desperate hopes of good people who want to become parents, but can’t afford the sky-high cost of fertility treatments.
Which makes me wonder, is this the future of our health care system? Have medical costs become so outrageous that the middle class is forced to consider remedy by lottery? Will a sweepstakes doctor show up on your doorstep with balloons like Ed McMahon, but instead of waving a big check he’ll be brandishing a hypodermic needle? As Mr. Quenqua’s article questions, what’s next? Raffling off chemo? Hey, why not replace the goldfish in bowls at the fair with embryos in petri dishes? If you have good aim with a ping pong ball you may be able to go home with the equivalent of a bean sprout in a milk carton. In which case, if it takes, you can literally tell your kid that you won him at a carnival, lovingly choosing him over a Bart Simpson doll. (By the way, THAT would make for a great college essay for the kid someday AND be a good starting point for his future therapy. It’s a twofer.)
As you can tell, I’m not quite sure what to think about this. It definitely invites discourse. And as a disclaimer I have to say that I have not suffered the frustration of infertility, so I don’t personally know the emotional pain of not being able to conceive. If I had gone through disappointing fertility treatments I might be singing a different tune. I certainly don’t judge the people who take advantage of such options. It’s like tax loopholes, if they’re available and legal, you might as well to use them. I just wonder if these options should be available in the first place? Do they actually help more people than they hurt or just invite a new form of commerce that harkens back to the Civil War carpetbagger?
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Stacy Dymalski is an award winning keynote speaker and stand-up comic who gave up the glamorous life of coach travel, smokey comedy clubs, and heckling drunks for the glamourous life of raising kids (who happen to be bigger hecklers than the drunks). This blog is her new stage.
For more of Stacy’s comedy check out her hilarious book Confessions of a Band Geek Mom available in paperback and on Kindle on Amazon.com.