Dr. Ernest Zeringue was looking for a niche in the cutthroat industry of fertility treatments.
He seized on price, a huge obstacle for many patients, and in late 2010 began advertising a deal at his Davis, Calif., clinic unheard of anywhere else: Pregnancy for $9,800 or your money back.
That’s about half the price for in vitro fertilization at many other clinics, which do not include money-back guarantees. Typically, insurance coverage is limited and patients pay again and again until they give birth or give up.
Those patients use their own eggs and sperm or carefully select donors when necessary and the two are combined in a petri dish to create a batch of embryos. Usually one or two are then transferred to the womb. Any embryos left over are the property of the customers.
Zeringue sharply cuts costs by creating a single batch of embryos from one egg donor and one sperm donor, then divvying it up among several patients. The clinic, not the customer, controls the embryos, typically making babies for three or four patients while paying just once for the donors and the laboratory work.
People buying this option from Zeringue must accept concessions: They have no genetic connection to their children, and those children will probably have full biological siblings born to other parents.