Fertility clinic offers `no baby, no fee' deal

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A TEST-TUBE baby clinic is offering infertile couples a guaranteed baby for a fee of almost pounds 10,000 or their money back.

The Exeter Fertility Clinic is the first in Britain to offer the "no baby, no fee" scheme. Couples would be asked to pay pounds 9,800 in advance and would receive up to 10 treatment cycles. If no baby was delivered, they would get a full refund. The offer does not include the cost of drugs, which averages pounds 555 per cycle.

Only couples where the woman was under 40 and who had been screened to ensure there were no serious medical problems would be accepted.

The normal cost of treatment at the private clinic, which is part of the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, is pounds 1,668 percycle, about pounds 16,000 for 10 cycles. However, most couples give up after three or four attempts.

The scheme was criticised yesterday by Child, the infertility pressure group, which accused the clinic of "cherry picking" those couples most likely to get pregnant. Clare Brown, director of the group, said: "The way such commercial elements creep into infertility treatment is very worrying."

Peter Brinsden, medical director of the Bourn Hall clinic in Cambridgeshire, said he had considered such a scheme butrejected it as too commercial.

In the United States the "no baby, no fee" principle is well established. A common technique there is to replace eight or ten embryos per cycle. In Britain, only three embryos can be replaced at a time.

In publicity material, the Exeter clinic explains that "pregnancy may occur after just one or two treatments, in which case the couple would have spent more than otherwise would have been the case. On the other hand they would at least have their baby."

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which licenses clinics in the UK, said clinics were free to make whatever arrangements for payment they chose.