Friday, August 11, 2006

PGD for sex selection being promoted

Thailand has been a destination for "fertility tourism" for some time. Bumrungrad Hospital's fertility center receives around patients per month from other countries. The primary motivation in the past has been cost; fertility centers like Bumrungrad's and Jentanin Institute, Thailand's largest, provide world class treatment at around one-third the cost of IVF in the west.

Now another feature of Thai IVF clinics is bringing foreigners to the Kingdom, the availability of sex selection through preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). PGD is used world wide to screen for healthy embryos prior to implantation. However, in many countries the use of PGD for selecting the sex of the embryos to be implanted is prohibited by medical code or laws. Thailand's national medical board has advised against the practice of sex selection but there are no laws or codes prohibiting it. And many customers are requesting it, according to Bangkok-based Ramkhamhaeng hospital group which is considering promoting the service.

The arguments against sex selection during IVF ultimately seem to boil down to religious beliefs, something along the lines of "we shouldn't be playing God", or accusations of misogyny in the cases when males are favored. A rational basis for arguing against it seems elusive, however, especially when you consider that the fertility doctor must select some embryos for implantation and some to be left behind, perhaps frozen for future use. Given that there are ample healthy embryos from which to choose one can just as well pick all males or all females. In cultures where the predominant religion is not based on belief in a god but instead on understanding the law of cause and effect (e.g. Buddhism in Thailand) the emotional vitriol against sex selection seems quite irrational.


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