Page URL:

UK committee to recommend social sex selection?

14 March 2005
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 299

The UK's House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (STC) is to recommend that couples should be allowed to use sex selection to achieve the families they desire, and that rules on the creation of 'designer babies' should be eased, according to an article in the Mail on Sunday newspaper.

The paper reports that the STC, which is soon to publish a report on its review of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, is to recommend that PGD with tissue-typing - used to create so-called 'saviour siblings' - should be able to be used by couples so long as they 'remain within the law'. It also reports that the committee will say that using fertility treatments to enable sex selection for social reasons is acceptable, because there is 'no compelling evidence' that it harms individuals or society.

The STC report, apparently seen by the Mail on Sunday in 'draft' form, calls for 'a complete overhaul' of the regulation of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs). It criticises the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) for acting outside of its remit and says that 'the current regulatory model should be replaced with a system that devolves clinical decision-making and technical standards down to patients and professionals while at the same time strengthening parliamentary and ethical oversight'.

The STC announced in 2003 that it was to inquire into whether the 1990 Act is still working effectively. Its inspiration appeared to come from a number of high profile court cases that challenged either the provisions of the Act or the right of the HFEA to make decisions on a number of specific issues. For example, a judicial review of the HFEA's decision to license PGD with tissue-typing was undertaken by a pro-life group after the authority gave the Hashmi family permission to use the technique. Initially, the UK's High Court ruled that the authority did not have the power to authorise the tissue typing procedure, but the Court of Appeal later overturned this ruling. However, last week, the Hashmi case reached the House of Lords, who will have the final say on the matter.

The STC had previously called for the 1990 Act to be updated in its fourth report, 'Developments in Human Genetics and Embryology', published in July 2002. Since that time, there has been increased criticism of the Act. In view of the concerns, and the failure of the Government to act on its 2002 recommendations, the STC has been consulting widely among interested parties on issues in ARTs, as well as holding an e-consultation open to the public. The STC's report, when published, will feed into a second review and consultation, which is being undertaken by the Department of Health (DH) and will be followed by a public consultation in autumn.

According to the Scotsman newspaper, some of the members of the STC are not happy with the draft report and have threatened to delay its progress, hoping that it will 'drop out of existence' if delayed until the general election. An unnamed MP told the Scotsman that 'the report has already been much rewritten, as the original was appalling and libertarian', adding 'it would have been unacceptable to the public and it's been amended, but it remains unacceptable'. Dr Ian Gibson, chair of the STC told the paper that the final version would be written 'line by line' at a meeting today.

IVF parents should be able to pick babies' sex, say MPs
The Scotsman |  14 March 2005
Let couples choose sex of babies say MPs
The Mail on Sunday |  13 March 2005
16 August 2005 - by BioNews 
The UK's Department of Health (DH) is inviting views on the way that some assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) are regulated in the UK. Its review forms part of a wider consultation on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Act, passed in 1990, which some say has become out-of-date, 'outstripped' by...
31 May 2005 - by BioNews 
Israeli parents who have at least four children of the same sex may now be allowed to use preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to conceive a child of the opposite sex. A new directive passed on 19 May will allow couples to apply for permission to select embryos according to their...
24 March 2005 - by BioNews 
The UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (STC) is deeply divided over its inquiry into Human Reproductive Technologies and the Law. Only half of the ten committee members put their names to the summary report, published today alongside a Special Report detailing the committee's disagreements. The dissenting MPs...
21 March 2005 - by BioNews 
A survey of 561 American women undergoing treatment for infertility shows that 41 per cent would choose the sex of their baby, if sex selection was offered at no additional cost. However, it seems that any fears about sex selection causing gender imbalances are unfounded, say the researchers, as the...
7 March 2005 - by BioNews 
The UK's House of Lords is being asked to decide whether a decision taken by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which allowed the Hashmi family to try to create a 'saviour sibling', was wrong. The highest court in the UK has today listened to the first day of...
19 April 2004 - by Juliet Tizzard 
This week's New England Journal of Medicine publishes a report into the outcomes of assisted reproduction in the United States. One major finding is that the rate of multiple pregnancies following IVF treatment has reduced over the past few years. The authors of the study say that the fall in...
21 January 2004 - by BioNews 
Public health minister, Melanie Johnson MP, has announced at the annual conference of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) that the UK government's Department of Health is to fully review the country's fertility and embryology legislation. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act was a 'landmark' piece of legislation when...
19 January 2004 - by BioNews 
The Science and Technology Committee (STC) of the UK's House of Commons is launching an online consultation into human reproductive technologies and the law. The consultation will be launched at a joint STC and British Academy debate on sex selection - just one of the issues to be covered in the...
27 October 2003 - by Juliet Tizzard 
The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has recently announced that it will conduct an enquiry into human reproductive technologies and the law. Concerned about a number of recent legal challenges to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Act 1990, the committee feels that the legislation is getting quickly...
to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions

Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.