Why do IVF patients feel the doctor cheated them when an IVF cycle fails

When the cycle fails, IVF patients are understandably upset and angry and they need to vent their frustrations on someone. There are only 4 possible targets. They can get angry with themselves and curse their fate; they can curse God, for not giving them a baby; they can blame their spouse, for not supporting them ( for example, by not agreeing to do IVF when she was younger and had a higher chance of success) ; and, finally, they can get upset with their doctor. The doctor is an easy target and there are many reasons why patients will feel angry and cheated when an IVF cycle fails. Some of this has to do with the patient, and some has to do with the doctor .

Thus, when doctors sign patients up for IVF treatment, they are often overoptimistic because they are in "sell" mode. They promise the earth and the moon and talk glibly about their high success rates and how good their facilities are. Unfortunately, they are so focused on talking about successes, that they often fail to emphasize that every IVF cycle has a high failure rate as well. Sometimes patients get carried away, and because they have excessively high expectations, they are angry and upset when their cycle fails. To add insult to injury, when the cycle fails, doctors often become unavailable. They know that the patient may be upset, and they do not want to deal with angry and upset patients. Patients are then often fobbed off to assistants, as a result of which they feel abandoned. They believe that the doctor cheated them and did the treatment because he wanted money.

Sometimes, however, patients are to blame, because they had unrealistic expectations from their treatment. They did not bother to do their homework or try to understand that IVF doesn't have a guaranteed outcome - and that even though the doctor may have provided the best possible medical care by creating good-quality embryos, once the embryos have been transferred inside the uterus, the doctor has no control over what the outcome of the cycle will be.

Doctors can make embryos, but only God can make babies ! Whether the embryo will implant or not is a biological process which the doctor cannot control, but if patients don't understand this, they feel cheated. Many patients naively believe that once an embryo has been formed, success is guaranteed. When they cycle fails, they are likely to get angry with the doctor, and feel that either the doctor did not do a good job because he was incompetent or that he lied to them. This is a lose-lose situation for everyone concerned, because unhappy patients can be extremely vengeful and will often vent their anger online, thus damaging the doctor's reputation, even though the doctor may be very good.

This is why you need to make sure that you well-informed and select a good doctor who is open, transparent and accountable about the treatment he offers you. If you have realistic expectations, you will have peace of mind you did your best, even if the IVF cycle does not result in a baby.

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