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Public to voice opinion on sex selection

Dr Kirsty Horsey

Progress Educational Trust

22 October 2002

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[BioNews, London] The UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) will launch a consultation paper on sex selection this week. A leak has suggested that the document will ask whether choosing the sex of a baby for 'family balancing' or other purely social reasons should be allowed.

The HFEA has not denied that the paper will look at this possibility. At present, sex selection can be done during preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), but is only allowed for medical reasons, such as the avoidance of a sex-linked genetic disease. But it has been reported that six British couples have travelled to America to take advantage of the pre-conception sex selection techniques offered by the Genetics and IVF Institute in Virginia.

The American clinic uses a technique known as sperm sorting in order to allow couples to try for a child of the sex they desire. This works on the premise that the chromosome that determines a baby's gender comes from sperm, and whether the sperm carries an X (female) or Y (male) chromosome affects the amount of DNA carried. On this basis, 'male' and 'female' sperm can be separated. It would not be illegal for such a clinic to operate in the UK, but none do. Nine years ago, following reports of a clinic offering gender choice in London, the HFEA conducted its first public consultation, which found that there was little public support for the practice.

These days, there may be a little more support, if the treatments were seen to be safe and the circumstances in which they could be allowed to take place were carefully controlled. Dr Simon Fischel, director of Centres for Assisted Reproduction, said that he could see no objections to sex selection for a legitimate reason such as family balancing, provided that no one sex was being 'devalued', for example, by parents being allowed to choose to have all children of one sex.

© Copyright Progress Educational Trust

Reproduced with permission from BioNews, an email and online sources of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and genetics.

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Date Added: 22 October 2002   Date Updated: 12 September 2004
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