How IVF patients can protect themselves from IVF Scams – The Importance of Patient Education

The ingenuity and creativity of IVF specialists still continue to amaze me, by the new scams they come up with all the time, to extract more money from gullible, ignorant, desperate infertile couples!

They dream up all kinds of “ new “ treatment options for their patients – but problem is that these options are completely useless and are of no clinical benefit at all. The only people who benefit from offering these options are the doctors because they can charge more money for them.

But while it's possible to fool some of the patients some of the time, you can't fool all the patients all the time, and as patients are getting smarter, they're realizing that these IVF clinics are taking them for a ride. They are starting to push back, but all IVF clinics are getting a bad reputation, because of a few bad apples. But the problem with a few bad apples is that the rot spreads very quickly, and lots of clinics start copying the same bad practices in order to make more money, especially when it's the market leaders who start these practices! They try to extract every single paisa they can from the patient, and they do this without any ethical qualms whatsoever.

And because patients are ignorant and gullible, it's very easy to take advantage of them. For example, the newest scam now is to do a TESE ( testicular sperm extraction) for patients who have high sperm DNA fragmentation. Let me explain why this is a scam.

For most men, the only useful test for assessing their male fertility potential is a sperm test. Now, even this is completely riddled with flaws, because it's not necessary that a man with a normal sperm count and normal fertility will be able to get his wife pregnant in the bedroom, which is why labs have come up with a lot of fancy additional new tests in order to identify which men have a potential problem with fertilizing their wife’s eggs. One of the fanciest and most popular tests for assessing sperm function is called sperm DNA fragmentation. Now, this test name sounds extremely attractive because it promises to measure the amount of fragmentation in the DNA of the sperm. And we all know how important DNA is, right? After all, isn’t genetics important for fertilization? And isn't it obvious that a sperm with a high DNA fragmentation ratio will have difficulty with fertilizing the eggs?

The biggest problem is that IVF specialists know practically nothing about genetics, which is why it's so easy for them to be taken for a ride. And this is why it's so easy for them to take their patients for a ride as well! Because they know so little, they actually believe the rubbish that they're told about the value of sperm DNA fragmentation tests. And it's a natural tendency on the part of doctors to do newer tests - especially tests that are more expensive because they get a bigger kickback from the lab for ordering these. This is why we are seeing an epidemic of sperm DNA fragmentation tests being done for practically every man who walks into an IVF clinic. Now, when the report comes back as abnormal, the man is told – See how good we are! We have diagnosed the reason for your infertility, and we need to fix it. Some clinics will do IVF/ICSI for these patients; others will say that they need to retrieve sperm directly from the testis because medical treatment for improving sperm DNA fragmentation does not help; while many will try a lot of useless “treatments”, such as antioxidants, improving lifestyle, and even varicocele surgery, but these don't help at all. And then when they don't, and especially when this poor man has failed an IVF/ICSI cycle in another clinic, the doctor offers to retrieve the sperm directly from the testis ( surgical sperm retrieval) because they claim that the sperm DNA fragmentation will be much less when the sperm is freshly taken from the testis. This is a load of rubbish, but patients don't know any better - and neither do their doctors.

And now that they can do an additional surgical procedure called a TESE, they're very happy to do this, because they can charge even more money. But all this is a complete waste of time and money as far as the patient is concerned.

Never allow any doctor to do a surgical sperm retrieval, whether it's a PESA or a TESA, if there are sperm in your semen – please protect your family jewels and don't let doctors take you for a ride.

The only way to protect yourself from unscrupulous doctors is by investing in information therapy, which acts as a protective safeguard. And if the doctor cannot answer your questions to your satisfaction, please get out of that clinic as soon as possible.

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You can also schedule a paid consultation via video call by clicking here, or if you require personal care and IVF treatment in Mumbai, you can WhatsAppus to book an appointment and come to our >Clinic in Colaba, Mumbai.

Authored by : Dr Aniruddha Malpani, MD and reviewed by Dr Anjali Malpani.