24 January 2013
USA: Ethical arguments for and against sperm sorting for non-medical sex selection
From Reproductive Biomedicine Online.
The authors note that much has been written about the ethics of sex selection. This article thoroughly explores the ethical arguments put forth in the literature both for and against non-medical sex selection using sperm sorting. While most of these arguments come from philosophers, feminist scholars, social scientists and members of the healthcare community, they are often echoed in empirical studies that have explored community values.
This review is timely because the first efficacious method for sex selection via sperm sorting, MicroSort, is currently in clinical trials and moving closer to FDA approval for marketing in the USA. While the clinical trials are currently focused on the use of MicroSort to avoid X-linked genetic diseases, MicroSort can also be used to satisfy parental preferences.
Throughout history, people have attempted to control the sex of their children. Some countries that have a strong preference for male children use prenatal testing or ultrasound followed by abortion to avoid the birth of girls. Additionally, embryos that have been created through IVF can be genetically tested to identify sex. Only embryos of the desired sex are transferred to the woman’s uterus. Scientists and healthcare providers have long sought a way to sort spermatozoa because spermatozoa carry the X or Y chromosome that determines the sex of the child; however, none of the marketed sperm-sorting technologies have been proven effective.
MicroSort®, currently in clinical trials, is a technology that appears to effectively sort X and Y spermatozoa. Given that an effective sperm-sorting technology might soon be marketed in the USA and abroad, they authors have reviewed the ethical arguments in favour of and against the use of sperm sorting for sex selection for non-medical purposes. (One reason couples might want to use sperm sorting for sex selection is to avoid the risk of having a child with a sex-linked genetic disease such as Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy or haemophilia.) They also review the arguments for and against governmental regulation of this technology.
The authors conclude that, should this technology be approved by the FDA, there is not adequate evidence at this time that use of the technology would result in social harms to justify governmental prohibition.
Ethical arguments for and against sperm sorting for non-medical sex selection: a review. Kalfoglou AL, Kammersell M, Philpott S, Dahl E. Reproductive Biomedicine Online. 2013 Mar;26(3):231-9. doi: 10.1016/j.rbmo.2012.11.007. Epub 2012 Nov 24.
Copyright © 2012 Reproductive Healthcare Ltd. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.