IVF add-ons and ethics – where does one draw the line?

By Mila Zemyarska.

During the last decade, there has been a boom of new adjunct techniques and interventions, also called IVF add-ons, developed in an attempt to boost IVF success rates. However, these have been introduced to the market and to clinical practice before their efficacy and safety could be properly assessed.

Hence, while these add-ons might add up, it is equally possible that at present patients pay large sums for interventions that are placebo at best or life-threatening at worst.

This practice was recently investigated by BBC One’s Panorama, which portrayed fertility treatment adjuncts as a business gimmick with little to no application in the clinic.

However, in my paper, I argue that providing IVF add-ons can still be ethical in specific circumstances: if true informed consent can be given, there is a potential of benefit and the risk of harm is minimal.

This finding is important, as it helps draw a line between right – allowing patients to make their own choices – and wrong – not protecting their health and wellbeing.

Hopefully, this much needed insight can help moderate the current situation, so both specialists who deny all add-on requests and those who offer adjunct interventions indiscriminately can head towards a more balanced approach to IVF add-ons together.


Paper title: Is it ethical to provide IVF add ons when there is no evidence of a benefit if the patient requests it?

Author(s): Mila Zemyarska

Affiliations: Nuffield Department of Women’s and Reproductive Health, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom

Competing interests: None.

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