US Clinic Designer Babies

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US Clinic Designer Babies
Wannabe Parents are being offered the chance to choose their babies' eye and hair colour as well as the sex at a US Clinic.

The LA Fertility Institute expects a baby with selected traits to be born next year. In the UK, sex selection is banned and choices are currently permitted only regarding the baby's health.

Dr Jeff Steinberg who runs the clinic was one of the pioneers of IVF in the 1970s. He says the science is based on a lab technique called preimplantation genetic diagnosis. This involves testing a cell taken from a very early embryo. Doctors then select an embryo free from the unwanted genes - or in this case an embryo with the desired physical traits such as blonde hair and green eyes - and implant it in the mother's womb and discard the unwanted ones.

Dr Steinberg said couples might want to use the clinic's services for both medical as well as cosmetic reasons. The cosmetic selection process is offered to patients who are already having genetic screening for abnormal chromosomes.

The clinic's website states: "Not all patients will qualify for these tests and we make NO guarantees as to 'perfect prediction' of things such as eye colour or hair colour."

Dr Steinberg said that the capability to offer such services had been around for years, but had been ignored by the medical community.

Dr Gillian Lockwood, a UK fertility expert and member of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists' ethics committee, has understandably questioned whether the idea is ethical . She commented that the clinic is "turning babies into commodities that you buy off the shelf."

"If it gets to the point where we can decide which gene or combination of genes are responsible for blue eyes or blonde hair, what are you going to do with all those other embryos that turn out like me to be ginger with green eyes?"

Josephine Quintavalle of Comment on Reproductive Ethics said: "This is the inevitable slippery slope of a fertility process which results in many more embryos being created than can be implanted. Choices will always have to be made. Do you choose octuplets or the ones with the prettiest noses?"

March 2009

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