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Liverpool hospital to investigate 'sex selection' claims

21 February 2011
Appeared in BioNews 596

A Liverpool hospital has said it will investigate allegations that one of its doctors had apparently offered to make arrangements for an undercover reporter posing as a prospective patient to undergo a sex selection procedure for family balancing abroad.

The Mail on Sunday reports Charles Kingsland, clinical director of the Hewitt Centre for Reproductive Medicine at Liverpool Women's Hospital, discussed the option of sending the reporter to a clinic in Northern Cyprus for her to undergo sex selection procedures on her embryos. It reports Mr Kingsland said the whole process would cost around £11,000.

Choosing the sex of a child is permitted only for medical reasons in the UK, such as for avoiding a sex-linked genetic disorder like Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Sex selection for so-called 'social reasons' is unlawful but a spokesman for the Human Fertilisation Embryology Authority (HFEA) said it has 'no powers to prevent a clinic sending a patient overseas for a treatment that would otherwise be disallowed here'.

Mr Kingsland is a member of the UK Cypriot Fertility Association (UKCFA) which provides assistance to fertility patients in the UK prior to treatment abroad. Although the UKCFA does not provide PGD for sex selection purposes in the UK, it is partnered with the Cyprus IVF Centre in Famagusta, Northern Cyprus, where PGD for sex selection or family balancing is allowed.

Lord David Alton, a cross-bench peer and a member of the all-party Parliamentary Pro-Life group, said 'the financial connection should be probed'. 'If you have a doctor with a vested interest in organising treatment that's illegal in the UK, that raises enormous moral issues', he said, adding: 'It is deplorable that there are these ways to circumvent the law in Britain'.

A spokeswoman for Liverpool Women's NHS Foundation Trust said it does not support sex selection other than for those cases when it is allowed for genetic reasons. 'We are unable to comment further at this stage as the matter has only been brought to our attention over the weekend. We will be conducting an investigation to establish the facts', she said.

Mr Kingsland later told the reporter: 'At no point did I tell you we could offer you sex selection in the UK because that's the case - we can't. It's illegal'.

'But I did make it clear I could point you in the right direction. We haven't done anything wrong', he said.

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