piggy bankSome lenders now offer loans to make paying for fertility treatments easier, but a commentary published by The Hastings Center raises ethical concerns about the practice. Specifically, author Alisa von Hagel discusses concerns that doctors who market loans to their patients have financial ties to the lending institution. The commentary suggests further evaluation of the practice and calls for oversight to prevent problems.

The author of the commentary says that cost is the largest obstacle preventing couples from seeking assisted reproductive technology, or ART. Many couples have no insurance or inadequate coverage for ART. Lending institutions created “fertility loans” to help these couples pay for fertility treatments. These loans are helpful in that they allow couples to start fertility treatments right away instead of waiting while the couple save up the money.

It is a relatively common practice to take out a loan to cover the cost of medical treatments in the United States but Von Hagel worries that infertile couples are emotionally and psychologically vulnerable as they seek fertility treatments.

At this time, no regulations or laws require a doctor to disclose his ties with a lending institution to a patient. Promoting the availability of these loans may encourage couples who are willing to do anything for a child to take out a loan, even when the procedure has little chance of success. The author of the commentary questions whether this practice helps the patient have a baby or if it enhances the profit margins of fertility clinics and doctors.

This approach, Von Hagel warns, could tarnish the doctor-patient relationship by weakening the patient’s trust in fertility clinics. This could have far-reaching effects, reducing public trust of the entire field of reproductive technology.

Von Hagel suggests that a professional board review the practice of “fertility loans” and investigate the ties between practitioners and lending institutions. The author says the process should not deprive couples of their authority to make decisions about reproductive care but rather it should be an honest evaluation of the benefits of such loans.

Source: Von Hagel, Alisa. "The Hastings Center - Banking on Infertility." The Hastings Center - Banking on Infertility. The Hastings Center, 18 Nov. 2013. Web. 21 Dec. 2013.