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scientists react to HFEA announcement on sex selection

The HFEA have announced the results of their public consultation and made recommendations to Government on sex selection during IVF.

Simon Fishel, Managing Director of CARE, Centre for Assisted Reproduction, in Nottingham, said:

“I fully support the regulation of sperm sorting which will ensure that the techniques used are safe and appropriate. Those families that wanted to use sex selection for choosing the gender of their child will be disappointed and will now be forced to go abroad to seek treatment. However it is an understandable decision because people feel very uneasy at using IVF for this purpose.”

John Harris, Sir David Alliance Professor of Bioethics at the University of Manchester, said:

“If it isn’t wrong to wish for a bonny, bouncing baby girl, why would it be wrong to make use of technology to play fairy godmother?”

Tom Shakespeare, a social scientist and bioethicist at the University of Newcastle, said:

“Social research shows that there is widespread public opposition to non-medical sex selection, as well as considerable concern among the medical profession. By deciding to prohibit sex selection, the HFEA will have reassured society that reproductive technologies can be effectively regulated, and that appropriate boundaries can be set to the exercise of individual choice. Children should be seen as a gift, not a commodity.”

Dr Mary Herbert, International Centre for Life, said:

“I welcome the fact that the public has been consulted on this issue. The recommendation to confine the use of sex selection to cases where there is a medical need reflects the attitude of the majority of people.

“The decision to regulate and conduct follow-up studies on the use of sperm selection is welcome. However, to ensure statistical validity, careful consideration should be given to methods of collection and analysis of the follow-up data at this stage.”

Juliet Tizzard, Director, Progress Educational Trust, said:

“It is important that the HFEA doesn’t over-regulate gender selection to the detriment of patients and families. Whilst public opinion seems to be largely against the use of gender selection for non-medical purposes, this doesn’t mean that we should ban it altogether. There is no evidence that gender selection – either by embryo screening or sperm sorting – causes physical or psychological harm to the child born, other family members or even to society. Given the lack of evidence of harm, the decision whether or not to have gender selection should be taken by the prospective parents.”

Professor Alison Murdoch, Chair, British Fertility Society, said:

“The British Fertility Society welcomes this report and we support its findings. We think that it is important that this technique is regulated, and that the regulations take into account the real concerns of the public at large. Like the general public, the majority of our members want sex selection only where there are sound medical reasons. Like many aspects of fertility, the techniques will evolve, and we will need to make sure that we continue to review the ethical and practical use of the technique in the light of any developments.”

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