Some fertility doctors will use lottery to prioritize Ontario IVF patients

Some fertility doctors in Ontario will use a lottery to determine who gets a coveted spot in the province’s expanded in vitro fertilization funding program.

Difficult to say who goes first amid rising demand, specialist says

IVF funding lottery

8 years ago
Duration 2:13
Some couples in Ontario could soon find themselves in a lottery to choose who gets fertility treatment funded by the province

Some fertility doctors in Ontario will use a lottery to determine who gets a coveted spot in the province's expanded in vitro fertilization funding program.

The provincial government anticipates 5,000 Ontarians will in the coming year avail themselves of $50 million in new funding, announced in October, for one cycle of IVF treatment and a single embryo transfer. Medications are not included.

Questions remain about exactly how the program will be rolled out, who will be eligible and who doctors will prioritize.

"What we do is we rely on the clinical expertise of the experts, of the physicians that practise in this field to themselves prioritize those who they believe should get the service first," Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins said Wednesday.

At Hannam Fertility in Toronto, Dr. Tom Hannam said it will be difficult to create a system that feels fair.

"It's really difficult to say who goes first," Hannam said. "We're going to be very oversubscribed, which means there will be a lot more people that want to do it with us than spots to do it. We need to develop a system."

Track pregnancy success rates

In medicine, triage generally takes those who are most likely to succeed. Hannam questioned, for example, how one should prioritize women at age 42 — who are about to age out of the program but might want help right away, regardless of their prognoses.

Hannam's clinic will use a combination of random lottery and a bit of triage. Perhaps other clinics will take a different approach and it will even out across the province, he said.

'We're going to be very oversubscribed,' Dr. Tom Hannam says of Ontario's new IVF funding program. (CBC)

Taunya Johnston, 31, of Cambridge, Ont. and her husband have a daughter, Cecilia, and are waiting and hoping for a funded cycle of IVF to expand their family.

The issue is an emotionally charged one, said Johnston, who has a chronic health condition. 

"We have to trust the medical professionals that they're making the decisions in our best interest and, ultimately, continue to perservere." 

Hannam hopes the program will publicize pregnancy success rates to improve the overall service. 

Quebec had a three-embryo transfer system program for women of any age, but is currently overhauling it

Hoskins said he'll announce more details "in the coming days."