Infertility is a disease that strikes one out six couples of child-bearing age. For many childless couples, cost is a major barrier. An IVF Cycle costs upwards of $10,000 and is not covered by most insurance companies.
This is why Sher Institute for Reproductive Medicine (SIRM) developed "Hope for the Holidays" with their "I Believe" Video Contest.
Couples submit a video chronicling their story and why they deserve to win a free IVF Cycle. Voting takes place over the internet. From the finalists, past winners select this year's winners.
A complete listing of entries can be found at haveababy.com.
The fertility clinic has attracted media attention in the past for its donations of free IVF treatment through video and essay contests, and through random drawings at its educational seminars.
In June, a national magazine and a national news station each ran a story that examined the ethical considerations of Sher's IVF giveaway.
Vicki Lyons and Walter Hankel, of Westchester, N.Y,, were winners of the 2011 essay contest. The couple underwent IVF treatment in March and welcomed twin girls to their family in November of 2012.
Vicki posted a photo of the twins on Facebook along with this encouragement for other couples entering this year's contest: "I was you last year! I though our chances were as good as winning the lotto! Well, I won something better than the lotto... I was given a cycle that resulted in two beautiful angels! Good luck to all of you. I hope you all get miracles for Christmas."
Many have claimed that these "contests" are unethical and take advantage of vulnerable, desperate people with this unique kind of video voyeurism.
"Are we aware that this may be perceived as a publicity stunt?" said Geoffrey Sher, MD, founder and Executive Medical Director for the Sher Institutes.
"Of course we are, and we considered the ramifications of this carefully for several years before deciding to offer our first free donations in 2010. What I can say after nearly 50 such donations is that the reaction from all but a very small handful of detractors has been overwhelmingly positive."
A large majority of those couples that have entered the contests -- including those couples who haven't won -- have expressed that the experience helped them connect with other couples in similar circumstances, and had a cathartic, healing effect on them.
"Just being able to enter these contests is healing for me," said Mary Clement. "I re-read my essay from the first contest and watch my video all the time. It reminds me of how far I have come and how fortunate I am. I have been in the trenches of IVF for 14 years, and I have never encountered another clinic with the same compassion and generosity."
The deadline for contest entries is 7:00 p.m. Dec. 7, 2012. Voting will begin on Dec. 11 on the Sher Institute website, haveababy.com. Winners will be announced on Dec. 20.