Imagine that you are a woman with an intractable medical problem. You awake each day desperate to find a way to live the life you have dreamed of. Your doctors have offered increasingly sophisticated, invasive, and expensive treatments, to no avail. You have depleted your savings, and your insurance coverage is inadequate to pursue further treatment.
You attend a seminar about a treatment that has helped other women with your problem. A raffle will award one attendee a free treatment from the seminar's sponsor. When the seminar ends, the speaker announces the winner's name to the hushed crowd. It is your name. Maybe, just maybe, your nightmare is over. This treatment could work. And you will not have to pay a dime for it.
Sounds like a dream come true, right? But what if the medical problem in question is infertility? And what if the grand prize is an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle that includes another woman's donated human egg? And what if the raffle, held in London and sponsored by an American clinic, was designed to market a kind of medical tourism, in which British women travel to America for IVF with donor eggs?
According to news reports, including this one from The Washington Post, the seminar's sponsor, the Genetics and IVF (GIVF) Institute in Fairfax, Virginia, insisted that they were not raffling human body parts, but instead offering free medical treatment. When I initially heard about the raffle, I was troubled by such blatant commodification of human reproduction. But I could not dismiss out of hand GIVF's claim that they were simply trying to help those who needed their services. Shortly after we got married, my husband and I met with the same GIVF physician who is quoted in the Post article. Because I have ...1
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