WE WON IVF TWINS COMPETITION IN A; Lydia and Will Won the Worst Taste Game in Newspaper History. but Is the True Scandal That Desperate Couples Are Driven to Take Part in Such Stunts Because of the Unfairness of NHS Fertility Treatment?
Byline: JENNY JOHNSTON
EVEN her own GP was speechless. When Lydia Stark made an appointment to have some crucial consent forms signed by her family doctor, she proudly explained the circumstances behind her impending fertility treatment.
'I was quite excited that we were about to start IVF, and was honest about how it had come about,' explains the 29-year-old retail manager. 'I told the GP that we had won the IVF in a competition. Her reaction shocked me. She looked at me - she was obviously disgusted - and said: "Well, that's not very ethical, is it?"
'I left the surgery feeling a bit hurt, and definitely angry. Maybe I agreed about the ethical bit. After all, it's not how you would choose to have a baby, by entering a competition, but it's not as if we had any other options.
We wanted a baby, simple as that, and a free course of IVF gave us the chance of being parents. And from where we stood, it was maybe our only hope.' Her GP's unease at the situation was quite understandable. It's hard to imagine a more distasteful contest than one where couples effectively compete for the chance to have a baby. Yet that's exactly what this competition, launched by their local paper in Birmingham earlier this year, involved.
Instead of a conventional first prize like a car or a holiday, it promised to give four lucky couples the ultimate prize - the chance of parenthood. Up for grabs were four courses of IVF, each worth [pounds sterling]5,000. Those who applied also had to set out why they deserved to win.
Lydia and her husband Will, 31, a teacher, who have been trying in vain to start a family since their wedding in 2002, were one of the chosen few couples. In June, they underwent a [pounds sterling]5,000 course of IVF for free - bypassing NHS waiting lists and putting a halt to those late night conversations about whether they could remortgage to fund private fertility treatment.
Their story is heading for that happy ending. The course was successful.
And, a scan has revealed the couple are expecting twins next April. There is good news too for another of the winning couples, to date unidentified, who are also expecting.
The outcome is not so rosy for the other two couples involved, however.
Their treatment has not been successful. They will, however, be obliged to talk about their rollercoaster ride through the IVF process for the benefit of newspaper readers, in accordance with the 'terms and conditions' they agreed to on entering the contest.
Lydia and Will would be the first to agree that the circumstances by which she became pregnant are hardly ideal.
Talking with the couple at their home in Worcester, Lydia keeps a protective hand over her growing bump. 'I know there are a lot of people who will tut about how we "won" our babies in a competition, but I think we can rise above that,' she says quietly.
'I don't think anyone can judge unless they have been in the situation themselves, and I'd defy anyone to suffer infertility then pass up on a chance like this.' Will agrees: 'We agonised over it, and I have to say we both had our reservations about whether we should do it.
'But, at the end of the day, if the competition had been to win [pounds sterling]5,000 we would have had no qualms about entering - and had we won, that money would have gone straight on a course of IVF. What's the difference?' Perhaps, in their case, there is no difference. The wider picture, however, is a disturbing one. The very existence of a contest whereby couples compete for IVF has heralded the dawn of an unsettling new era in Britain's fertility crisis.
most of those who entered the competition should, by rights, have received their fertility treatment on the NHS. Earlier this year, in widely-trumpeted changes to the existing system, the Government declared that every infertile couple who met certain requirements would have at least one cycle of IVF funded by the State. …