In Brief

MPs demand inquiry into sex selection doctors

NHS medics allegedly charging couples to let them choose gender of their baby

MPs have called for a General Medical Council (GMC) inquiry into reports that some medical practitioners in the UK are secretly charging couples money to select the sex of their child.

Gender selection for non-medical reasons is illegal in the UK, but the Daily Mail reports that at least four British doctors have been offering the service to couples under their care. The doctors allegedly set up “appointments at private clinics” in the UK for the couples, before sending them abroad to undergo the procedure at medical centres in countries including Cyprus and the United Arab Emirates.

The UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has said that it is “extremely concerned about any HFEA-licensed centre, or any individual connected to it, promoting and facilitating such treatment”. The watchdog added that it will be contacting the centres and individuals about the allegations.

Three members of the Commons Health Committee, including SNP MP Dr Lisa Cameron, have called for the GMC to launch its own investigation into the “morally dubious procedure”.

Cameron described the Mail’s findings as “alarming”, adding: “I hope the fertility regulator will launch a full investigation into this and appropriate action is taken against the medical professionals involved. We need to send a clear message that this is not acceptable.”

Fertility clinics in Britain must have a licence from the HFEA to operate, while doctors practising medicine in the country must be registered with the GMC to obtain a licence to practice.

However, such restrictions do not apply in some other parts of the world. “The legal ambiguity of northern Cyprus has made it an attractive option for the booming highly controversial industry of designer babies,” reports the Cyprus Mail.

Jay Karatuna, who advises English patients at an IVF centre in the Cypriot city of Famagusta, told an undercover Daily Mail reporter: “In North Cyprus you have no issues at all on the legal side of things. Everything is legal here. We’ve been doing it for years and years and years. It’s no problem to us.”

Responding to the newspaper’s report, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “Sex selection is strictly prohibited in the UK and the Government takes these allegations extremely seriously.”

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