Early fetal gender test demands rapid ethical policymaking

nd experienced laboratories.

It then goes on to explore the views of clinicians, scientists and social scientists as well as the evidence from the developed and developing world on the potential impact of this technology if used for non-medical reasons.

It gives no answers and, to quote the editors of this issue 'It remains to be seen whether the triumph of modern science to allow fetal sexing at increasingly early stages of gestation will be seen as a triumph, allowing those at risk for sex-linked disorders to learn of the health of their fetus at the earliest point possible, or a tyranny, making simpler the selective termination of female fetuses with its attendant social and political consequences.'"

Early pregnancy maternal blood test for fetal gender demands rapid ethical policy-making

The sex of a 5-7 week embryo can be determined by a new test about two months earlier than was possible with ultrasound. "It is imperative that an authorized committee of experts in each country generates and official policy regarding use of this test," says Dr. Esther Guetta from the Danek Gertner Institute of Human Genetics, in Israel, writing in the latest edition of Prenatal Diagnosis.

To understand the test you need to know two things:

  1. Fragments of DNA from an embryo can be found circulating in its mother's blood.
  2. While males have an X and a Y chromosome, females only have two X chromosomes.

If you take a sample of a pregnant woman's blood plasma and find DNA that is only present in males, the woman is most probably carrying a male fetus.

Unlike other highly accurate invasive tests, this test poses no risk to the embryo. It can also be carried out early in pregnancy. Add these together and it is likely therefore to become popular with anyone who is prepared to use abortion as a way of choosing their child's sex.

"We need to think about this quickly becaus

Contact: Polly Young
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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