IVF Sweepstakes Sparks Debate in Britain

A British charity called To Hatch has garnered much media attention this week for its lottery-style contest in which the prize is a free cycle of in-vitro fertilization (IVF), the procedure that helps many women with fertility problems become pregnant. The prize has a value of £25,000 (around $40,000) and would cover a single cycle of IVF, or other procedures the winners might require, such as surrogacy, donor eggs or sperm, or artificial insemination, up to the value of the prize amount. Only residents of Great Britain are eligible to participate.

The charity is selling £20 (about $32) raffle tickets through its website, under a license agreement granted by the country's Gambling Commission. The contest is open to singles, as well as straight and gay couples. Identity verification, fertility counseling, and medical qualifications (including age) will be required of the winner, the charity said on a FAQ page of its website. The contest launches July 30, and a winner will be chosen each month.

Britain's fertility regulator, The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said using IVF as a prize was "wrong and entirely inappropriate."

"It trivializes what is for many people a central part of their lives," it added in a statement.

Josephine Quintavalle, from the campaign group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said "creation of human life should not be reduced to a public lottery ... this demeans the whole nature of human reproduction."

The charity responded that it welcomes the debate but stands behind its decision to offer hope to the estimated 1 in 7 British couples that experience infertility. "We understand that there will be skepticism especially when this is a ground breaking global premiere.... We are extremely thankful that we have opened the debate on infertility globally and to highlight that infertility itself is a medical condition," To Hatch's website states.

(image via: http://to-hatch.co.uk)

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