Investigation into UK gender selection service

An investigation by the Daily Mail has identified ‘at least’ four doctors in private IVF clinics who are offering the first stages in gender selection in the UK, and then send patients to Cyprus, Crete or Dubai for the final procedure. Gender selection is illegal in the UK, unless for medical reasons to prevent serious hereditary diseases.

The investigation suggests gender selection is becoming more popular. It identified at least four UK doctors willing to arrange blood tests, scans and medication in the UK before the couples travel abroad for the final procedure. The article identified clinics and hospitals in Northern Cyprus, Crete and Dubai offering gender selection services.

One doctor interviewed said that this procedure is popular with couples of Indian or Chinese heritage, who it is claimed prefer boys. Another reason given for interest in the service is family balancing.

Sex selection for social reasons is against the law in the UK under the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act of 2008. A code of conduct drawn up by watchdogs states that, for legal reasons, clinics must not ‘participate in any other practices designed to ensure that a resulting child will be of a particular sex’.

This clause has not been tested in court, so it is not known whether ‘other practices’ would include helping patients who go abroad for the procedure. The article says that it would appear however that giving advice and carrying out tests is not unlawful if the treatment is carried out abroad.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority has launched a probe into this investigation, saying it would be extremely concerned by the promotion of the practice.