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11 March 2005
Sex Selection Before IVF Implantation Likely To Be Popular

Sex selection is one of the most controversial topics in biotechnology. While the American Society of Reproductive Medicine has stated that preconception sex selection for non-medical reasons is acceptable, the practice has been banned in the United Kingdom. Some believe it may lead to imbalances in society's gender ratio and contribute to stereotyping and discrimination. Now, a new survey says a significant number of women being treated for infertility would choose the sex of their next child if given the option. "We found that 41 percent of patients surveyed would use preimplantation sex selection if it were offered to them at no cost," said Tarun Jain, lead author of the study in Fertility and Sterility.

The two techniques currently available in the U.S. - sperm separation and preimplantation genetic diagnosis - that make sex selection possible are usually reserved for the prevention of sex-linked genetic disorders in children and are not widely used for nonmedical purposes. "Sex selection is a topic that's almost taboo for physicians to talk about. Yet it's important to understand patient interest in nonmedical sex selection and adequately address the ethical and social implications before the cat is out of the bag," said Jain. "Prior to this study, there has been no data to indicate what the demand might be."

"One of the fears is that sex selection will drive patients toward a certain sex," said Jain. "And the presumption is a preference for boys. But our study did not show that. In fact, in patients who did not have children there was no greater desire for boys over girls." The study also found that women with only daughters wanted to select a male child, and women with only sons wanted to select a female child. Women who were older, not religious, willing to pay for sex selection, had more living children, had only sons, or had a diagnosis of male infertility, were more likely to want a daughter.

Given that The President's Commission on Bioethics has identified sex selection as a topic of concern, the researchers suggest that it may be important for society to determine what is an acceptable use of non-medical sex selection. "As the techniques gain more popularity, physicians will have to decide if they will offer the procedure to patients with and without children," Jain concluded.

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