February 22, 2024


A leading US medical school is to create children to study the social and personal impact of sex selection. Dr Sandra Carson, of Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston, has launched a clinical trial in which a couple chooses the sex of their child and the investigators study its physical and psychological health. The trial is so controversial that Baylor’s institutional review board dithered over it for nine years.

There are still a lot of questions in people’s minds about whether this is something that should be pursued,” says Robert Brzyski, a fertility specialist at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. He told the journal Nature that he does not offer sex selection because he feels that children should be unconditionally loved, regardless of their sex.

Dr Carson is a former president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, which currently opposes sex selection. She feels that her study will change her colleagues’ policy. “Their statements are based on public opinion, not outcomes,” she told an ASRM meeting in Montreal last month. “Public opinion is important, but it shouldn’t be used to ban something.”

Surveys of public opinion, in fact, show mixed results. A survey published earlier this year by a researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago showed that 41% of infertile women would choose sex selection if it did not cost anything. However, the results from a British study released this month showed that 80% of people felt social sex selection was very wrong. The researcher was taken aback by the vehemence of the opinions expressed.