New U.S. Clinical Trials Allow Sex-Selection of Human Embryos

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Oct 27, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New U.S. Clinical Trials Allow Sex-Selection of Human Embryos Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
October 27, 2005

Houston, TX ( — New clinical trials are underway at Baylor College of Medicine where doctors are asking IVF patients to determine the sex of the unborn child before implantation. The trials are being called the first ever in the United States.

The preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) procedure is used to figure out the sex of embryos created in IVF but is normally reserved for cases where parents are concerned about sex-linked diseases being transmitted to the unborn child.

However, the clinical trial doesn’t involve those diseases the procedure is simply being used for sex-selection purposes.

Baylor professor Sandra Carlson is leading the team, according to an article in the medical journal Nature, and her goal is to survey the long-term health effects of the PGD process for the children born of it. Carlson’s team will also analyze the social impact the procedure has on families who use it.

Pro-life advocates have long had concerns about the in-vitro fertilization process because most of the unborn children created by it are destroyed.

Others are concerned the PGD procedure will lead to the kind of sex-selection mentality that has parents in China and India relying on abortions to give birth to a boy instead of a girl. Several countries have banned the procedure for that reason.

Meanwhile, PGD is being used to screen unborn children for genetic defects that would cause physical or mental handicaps and pro-life groups worry that could lead to the destruction of unborn children with such traits.

The Baylor Assisted Reproductive Technology program has also received inquires from 50 couples wanting to participate in the program. Under the clinical trial protocols, couples must already have at least one child and must complete a detailed questionnaire saying why they prefer a boy or a girl.

A survey conducted by the Genetics and Public Policy Center of Johns Hopkins University in May 2004 found that a majority of Americans (57%) disapproved of using PGD to select embryos on the basis of sex. And 80% worried that, if not regulated, reproductive genetics technologies could "get out of control."