'We're not messing around with God the creator'
Wealthy foreigners are travelling to
Dr Jeffrey Steinberg, of the Fertility Institutes of Los Angeles and
LasVegas, is assisted by business manager Julia Vuille (right), who translates
during a consultation with a couple from
Well-off foreign couples are getting around laws banning sex selection, in their home countries by coming to the US - where it's legal - for medical procedures that can give them the boy, or girl, they want.
"Some people spend $50,000 to $70,000 [1.9 million to 2.7 million baht] for a BMW car and think nothing of it, but this is a life that's going to be with us forever," said Robert, an Australian who asked that his surname not be used to protect the family's privacy.
He and his wife, Joanna, have two boys. Now they want a
But one doctor who offers embryo selection for about $20,000
(768,000 baht) said he is serving the market place and helping nature, not
playing God. People will be less alarmed as sex selection becomes more routine,
said Dr Jeffrey Steinberg of the Fertility Institutes of Los Angeles and
"It’s new. It's scary. We understand that," Dr Steinberg said. His web site features an image of a Chinese flag alongside information about sex selection. "Near 100 per cent effective gender selection methods to help balance families," the web site promises."
"We basically want them to know it's available," Dr
Steinberg said of the international push. The web page on sex selection
generates 140,000 hits a month from
In a recent week, his clinics performed the procedure on
eight women from abroad and consulted with 12 new foreign patients from
Most couples are affluent, Dr Steinberg said. But some, like Australians Robert and Joanna, have moderate incomes. Robert, 30, works as a construction supervisor and Joanna, 27, is a part time secretary.
The couple visited Dr Steinberg's
The procedure, which Steinberg also offers as an add-on service for infertile couples, determines the gender of a batch of fertilised eggs and implants only embryos of the wanted sex. This process - called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD - is more widely used to screen for genetic diseases.
"The Chinese like boys. Canadians like girls. Every country is different," he said, adding that the boy-girl preference balances out at 50-50 when all his clients are added together.
Opponents call it "consumer eugenics" and say it opens the door to a future where parents will choose their babies' hair colour, eye colour and potential to grow tall enough to play basketball, and US doctors "are catering to the same gender bias that has led to female infanticide in China and India, they claim.
"What you're saying is it's better you don't exist than be the wrong gender for my family. And that's a shocking assertion," said Matthew Eppinette, director of research at the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, a Christian bio-ethics group. The method can prevent sex linked inherited diseases. But when it's used solely to help a couple get a coveted girl or round out a family of daughters with a wanted son, the practice is controversial, even among doctors who specialise in reproductive medicine.
"We don't do that. Sex is not a disease," snapped
Yury Verlihsky, director of the Reproductive Genetics Institute in
The American Society for, Reproductive Medicine said sex selection of embryos is clearly ethical when the method is used to prevent genetic disease. But the professional group, discourages its use for choosing one gender over another. The group said the practice risks reinforcing sexism in society and diverts medical resources from real medical needs.
While many countries prohibit sex-selection techniques
without a medical purpose, the
The Johns Hopkins centre is leading an effort to collect
data on how many sex-selection procedures are performed in the
Another group, the Center for Genetics and Society, is calling for regulation of the practice and its marketing. "Right now the market, rather than social or ethical concerns, is driving practices," said Sujatha Jesudason from the centre. "People who have money to pay for it are getting the children of their choice.'"
Steinberg said his clinic requires foreign couples to spend
only five days, in the
“Even though it's illegal there, the illegal part happens here,”
he said. Once the woman produces eggs, she and her husband fly to the
A lab technician extracts one cell from each embryo for genetic analysis. If it's the preferred gender, it will be implanted in the client's womb along with one or two other embryos, all selected for gender, to increase chances of a successful pregnancy.