How much is a child worth? Providers’ and patients’ views and responses concerning ethical and policy challenges in paying for ART

Klitzman, Robert L.

Infertility treatments remain expensive and in many countries are covered by little, if any, insurance, raising critical questions concerning how patients and providers view and make decisions regarding these challenges. In-depth semi-structured interviews of approximately 1 hour were conducted with 37 IVF providers and 10 patients (17 physicians, 10 other providers and 10 patients), and were systematically analyzed. These data suggest current insurance policies and legislation pose critical ethical and logistical challenges for both patients and providers. These individuals face multiple uncertainties about costs and insurance, related to unclear causes of fertility, treatment length, costs and outcomes, and odds that insurers will cover expenses. Insurers frequently decline to agree to reimbursement beforehand, and decide only afterwards, case-by-case, generating stress. Patients and providers thus may not be able to predict how best to allocate limited resources. Providers may advocate for patients, but are usually unsuccessful. Patients may adopt several strategies: e.g., moving/seeking treatment elsewhere, switching or feeling “stuck” in jobs because of insurance, seeking “free” medications, going into debt, or using funds intended for other purposes. Patients do not perceive and respond to resource limitations as fixed phenomena—i.e., patients do not see treatment simply as “affordable” or not. Rather, patients face quandaries of how much to keep spending—how much a child is worth—and are forced to make complex risk/benefit calculations. Couples can disagree, straining relationships. In sum, these data, the first to explore how providers and patients struggle, view, and make decisions regarding limited insurance and resources for infertility, raise several critical ethical and policy issues. These data suggest that individuals have difficulty translating profoundly life-altering, deeply personal quests for meaning and fulfillment into purely economic terms. These findings thus have important implications for future policy, practice, research, and patient and provider education.


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Public Library of Science
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March 28, 2017