Channel 4, Friday 12 October 2012
Featuring Camille Strachan
Win a Baby is another documentary by a first-time filmmaker for Channel 4's First Cut season which also brought us What's My Body Worth? (reviewed in BioNews 670).
It follows the trials and tribulations of Camille Strachan, a former City worker and model, who plans to launch the UK's first IVF lottery. Each ticket sold in the To Hatch lottery would give buyers a chance to win £25,000-worth of fertility treatment. The documentary features interviews with couples and women with fertility problems who provide a broad spectrum of opinion on the pros and cons of the scheme.
Predictably, plans for the To Hatch lottery fired a media furore and Joseph Martin, the director, should be praised for making a sensible and balanced documentary on the subject. Unlike many documentaries where the maker's own thoughts are thrust in front of anyone else's, the commentary is fairly neutral, allowing viewers space to form their own opinions.
The film portrays Strachan as a contradictory character: is she doing this as a way to - as she claims - bring hope to others, or as a hard-nosed business woman out for personal profit?
Certainly she would likely win a fortune if the To Hatch lottery ever got going. Even my poor maths can calculate that at £20 a pop and with a million tickets for sale, paying out £25,000 at the end of it all would barely dent the multi-million pound margin. What would happen to these profits is never answered satisfactorily by Strachan. Still, I can't deny she isn't committed; she has ploughed over £100,000 of her own money into the venture.
The To Hatch lottery starts out as a charity and due to the press attention and an investigation by the Charity Commission is forced to drop its status. It becomes a community interest group - a less regulated form of social enterprise. Strachan brings in her uncle as director and plays down accusations of nepotism, saying that her uncle is not just a figurehead. Her outrage feels a touch insincere; the uncle is not shown in the film, and is conspicuous by his absence.
Strachan discusses her motives for the lottery and her own negative experiences of IVF. She wants to help others with fertility problems, she says, apparently sincerely. The lottery would give hope to impoverished couples who otherwise wouldn't ever get access to IVF, she continues, and this is her trump card against all manner of arguments raised against the lottery. She clings to this idea even when the Gambling Commission says it is unlikely to provide a licence as the Hatch Lottery targets 'vulnerable' people.
In fact, Strachan's own experience of IVF was relatively brief. She went through one failed cycle before conceiving naturally. This is stark contrast to the fertility patients likely to enter the lottery, some of whom get to talk of their experiences here.
Kimberley's story highlights the psychological effect infertility and failed IVF can have. She tells of her fear of going outside to see children and babies - reinforcements of her feelings of failure around her inability to conceive. It's hard not to feel that the Hatch Lottery would just give people like Kimberley false hope; the odds of winning are so marginal and the odds of getting pregnant from one IVF cycle are also slim. Kimberley does not qualify for IVF on the NHS, she is unemployed and cannot afford to pay for private treatment. She sees the lottery as her best way of accessing treatment.
But others come out in support of the lottery. Michelle sees nothing wrong with Camille making a profit and plans to enter. She talks openly about her partner's fertility problems and the many tactics she has imagined to conceive, including the idea of a one-night stand with a stranger.
By the end of the film, the To Hatch lottery looks like a gimmick more than anything else, and one capitalising on the postcode lottery in IVF treatment provision in the UK. The documentary does touch on this but briefly - it is only 23 minutes long.
Due to the regulatory and logistical hurdles in its way the To Hatch lottery looks unlikely to come to fruition. But I'd recommend watching this show to make up your own mind on Strachan's intentions and the ethics involved in an IVF lottery.