Dodgy IVF providers peddling false hope to Victorians about their chances of starting a family will be targeted in a new inquiry.
The state government announced on Tuesday it has asked the Health Complaints Commissioner to uncover dangerous and unethical practices by IVF providers, with a final report to be delivered to the government by the year's end.
It follows a review of Assisted Reproductive Services, which looked at whether there are enough safeguards to protect people using, or intending to use, assisted reproductive treatment.
The review found some people had fallen victim to rogue, heartless operators, including one doctor who allegedly knowingly transferred an unviable embryo into a patient.
In a separate case, clinicians allegedly failed to disclose equipment failures and instead led patients to believe their embryos had succumbed naturally.
Another patient was given access to hormones that overstimulated her ovaries and she ended up in hospital.
"There's nothing right about exploiting people at what can be a very vulnerable time," Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters.
"To be misled, to be given that sense of false hope and then billed for it, there's something particularly insidious about that."
Assisted reproductive treatment is costly, with one IVF cycle costing up to $15,000. Only about a third of people who undertake the treatment are successful.
About 13,000 Victorians were treated at IVF clinics, last financial year.
While there are no figures on exactly how many IVF providers are operating unscrupulously, the recent review revealed enough examples to "raise alarm bells", Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said.
While most IVF practitioners do the right thing, the ones who fail to be upfront about success rates or costs must be weeded out, Ms Mikakos said.
The inquiry will also recommend steps to protect patients.
People who have accessed or are accessing IVF services will be able to have their say during the inquiry's consultation process.
Health Complaints Commissioner Karen Cusack will refer any matters of false, misleading and deceptive conduct to Consumer Affairs Victoria.
Penalties will also be increased for IVF providers caught doing the wrong thing.
Australian Associated Press