Thursday, December 11, 2014

When IVF doctors lie

Fortunately for IVF doctors and patients , most IVF cycles go as they are supposed to . The patients grows eggs, these are retrieved; and good quality embryos are transferred into the uterus. Even if the patient does not get pregnant, when the  doctor shows them photos of the good quality embryos he has transferred , both are happy that the treatment was carried out properly, whether or not the cycle results in a pregnancy.

However, things don’t always do well, and we find that sometimes some doctors resort to lying when this happens . For example, if the doctor is not able to collect any eggs at the time of the retrieval; or if the eggs fail to fertilise; or if the embryos arrest in the lab.

In these situations , rather than level with the patient and tell them the truth , doctors often try to cover up and hide reality from the patient . This is partly because patients have not been counseled properly , as a result of which they have unrealistic expectations of the IVF treatment . Often when doctors are signing up patients for IVF treatment, they overpromise and quote extremely high ( and inflated) success rates , to try to lure the patient into taking treatment at their clinic , rather than going somewhere else .

This can come back to haunt them later, especially when there are technical problems during the IVF cycle.

It’s true that bad things can happen during an IVF cycle. For example , a trainee embryologist can kill all the eggs while doing ICSI; of the embryos may die in the lab because of power failure; or the embryos may divide properly because of an infection in the culture medium; or the transfer maybe technically difficult because of cervical stenosis, as a result of which the doctor is not able to negotiate the catheter through the cervix and fails to deposit the embryos into the uterine cavity.

When these untoward events occur during an IVF cycle , it’s far better that the doctor be honest and upfront and tell the patient exactly what the problem is . Of course there will be short-term pain , because the patients will be rightfully upset, and it’s not much fun for the doctor to manage an unhappy , angry and resentful patient . However, it's far better to tell the patient the truth , because at least that way the patient can learn from what went wrong, and this allows the doctor to do a better job during the next IVF cycle.

However , doctors are not always straightforward , and in order to cover up their technical deficiencies, they will try to fool the patient  by spouting jargon or blaming the problem on some irrelevant red herring, such as “weak eggs” or “abnormal sperm”.

This is very shortsighted , because patients are smart , and they will try to get more information about what actually transpired, by talking to other patients ; asking the nurse and the embryologist; and checking online.

If they find out that the doctor lied to them , they are likely to be extremely angry and vengeful , and this will end up spoiling the doctor’s reputation . This is why it's so important that doctors learn to be open and transparent . However, it’s much more important that patients learn to be well-informed , and demand accurate information proactively from their doctor for each stage of their IVF cycle , so that they have peace of mind they have received the best quality medical care.

Need help in making sense of your IVF medical records ?  Please send me your medical details by filling in the form at so that I can guide you better !

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