Furious couples demanding a baby boy, drunk husbands being dragged along, $10,000 bribes to bend the law, and bizarrely popular porn choices.
This is just some of what goes on behind the scenes at Australia’s bulk-billed IVF centres where taxpayers foot the bill.
Staff also lifted the lid on other strange requests by patients, the rules for the collection room, and how long the average man takes inside.
Workers have revealed what really goes in behind the scenes at Australia’s bulk-billed IVF centres that are subsidised by the taxpayer
Gender selection demands
Only about 30 per cent of couples just want a healthy baby of any gender, the rest have a preference either way but most are happy to just cross their fingers.
A small majority of couples prefer girls, but a small subsection, above five per cent, are so adamant about having boys they will storm out when told they can’t.
Workers claim about five per cent of prospective parents will leave when told the practice is illegal in Australia.
The families are overwhelmingly immigrants from cultures that view boys as desirable offspring and girls as a burden.
Several clinics around Australia in the past few years now offer bulk-billed IVF treatment to Medicare-eligible patients.
Like bulk-billed GP visits, these slash the price to as little as $500 per attempt instead of the $8,000 average which patients only get back half with rebates.
This is allowing thousands of Australians who couldn’t afford IVF to access treatment.
However, IVF workers expressed concern that taxpayers were forking out to subsidise questionable parents, those who said they would abort until they got a desired gender, or families that already have many children.
‘They get really angry when we tell them they can’t choose the gender of their kid, they shout at you and leave,’ a staff member told Daily Mail Australia.
‘These parents are almost all from the Middle East or South Asia and many of them are Muslim and want sons to be their heirs.
‘One man even said girls were only good for getting married and are a lot of work because you have to find them a husband.’
Research by La Trobe University last year found Victoria’s Chinese and Indian communities had much higher rates of male births, suggesting many girls were aborted or that parents went overseas for fertility treatment.
Another couple wanted a girl because they had a dream that told them they would have riches if they had a baby girl.
‘They were really threatening, they said if they had a boy they would abort it and come back and try again until they got a girl,’ the worker said.
‘But we’re not allowed to refuse them unless it’s on mental health grounds and this doesn’t count – and Medicare has to pay for it.’
‘Another family had six girls and wanted a boy. Should Medicare really be paying for them to have a seventh child?’
Staff said they were occasionally offered bribes of up to $10,000 to bend the rules and select the desired gender.
‘Some couples just really want a brother or sister for their child [of the opposite gender] or have many of the same gender and we’d like to help them, but we can’t.’
The subsidised centres allowed couples to have children for as little as $500, but workers were disgusted that public funds were forced to be spent on certain clients
Australia is one of only a few countries where gender selection is illegal, affirmed in 2017 when the National Health and Medical Research Council upheld the ban.
Patients can go to the U.S. where it is legal, but have to fork out more than $10,000 per attempt.
However, patients can pay about $3,000 to have genetic testing done on the embryos to screen for disorders, and those with a family history of developing medical conditions more common in one gender can screen that one out.
Inside the collection room
Fathers-to-be have to provide a sperm sample which is then used to fertilise an egg from their partner in a lab, with the embryo later implanted into the mother.
The IVF worker said the average man takes about 10 minutes to provide their sample and the collection room has resources to help this along.
A computer will play a range of pornographic videos and what men choose is monitored to keep the list up to date.
‘Midget porn is strangely one of the most popular styles, along with secretaries,’ the staff member said.
Partners are allowed in the room to assist men in providing the sample, but there are strict rules about how they can help.
‘They can’t actually have sex of any kind because introducing another bodily fluid would taint the sample and kill the sperm,’ staff said.
‘Lubricant isn’t allowed either for the same reason.’
Australia is one of only a few countries where gender selection is illegal, affirmed in 2017 when the National Health and Medical Research Council upheld the ban
Strange patient demands
Most couples who walk in the clinic’s doors are in stable relationships and just happy they can try for a baby at an affordable cost.
Some still struggle to conceive and endure repeated rounds of treatment until they are seen sitting in the waiting room jaded and expecting another failure.
But some memorable patients present unique challenges for staff to navigate.
‘There was a guy who came in drunk to every appointment and was only there because his wife nagged him,’ the worker recalled.
‘Another one the woman had a restraining order against the would-be father. We had to do phone consults because they couldn’t be in the same room but she still wanted to have a baby with him.
‘He went along with it because he wanted to get back with her.
‘There’s also plenty of women who have convinced a new fling to lie and say they’re in a relationship so they don’t have to pay for a sperm donor.’
In another strange scenario, a woman was trying to secretly be a surrogate, which is not allowed on Medicare, but pretended she wanted the baby for herself.
‘She was trying to use taxpayer dollars to sell babies to rich families in America. It’s far cheaper here so she would have made a big profit,’ they said.
Most couples who walk in the clinic’s doors are in stable relationships and just happy they can try for a baby at an affordable cost – but others have strange demands
The staff member said they were also frustrated that couples could have taxpayer-funded IVF after the male had a vasectomy.
‘A lot of couple have several children, get a vasectomy, but then the father decides he wants one more child. It’s ridiculous that the taxpayer has to pay for this,’ they said.
Women as old as 50 also come in asking for treatment, but Medicare rules ban anyone over 45 from getting subsidised treatment.
Embryos are stored in a gel that mimics a uterus, with the standard type using stem cells for the best results.
However, many religious patients are opposed to the use of stem cells so a second type, which staff said was less effective, used pig material instead.
A third type that doesn’t use either component has to be used for religious groups that ban consumption of pork, such as Orthodox Jews.
‘A rabbi also has to bless it and watch the entire process to make sure it complies with kosher rules,’ staff said.