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Survey of Fertility Clinics: Selection Technologies Widespread in the U.S.

Genetic Crossroads
October 20th, 2006

Half of U.S. fertility clinics that offer the embryo screening technique known as PGD say they allow couples to use it to choose the sex of their child, according to a survey recently released by the Genetics and Public Policy Center and published in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

The survey, which also revealed that nearly three quarters of U.S. fertility clinics offer PGD, collected basic facts about the use of the procedure that have been previously unavailable. The growing U.S. fertility industry operates with minimal oversight and regulation.

"Today, PGD use appears to be growing rapidly yet no comprehensive data exist about the practice of PGD in the United States," the authors of the paper observe. "Without the basic facts, it is not possible for researchers to evaluate thoroughly current PGD practices and devise ways to improve the technology or analyze the health outcomes for babies born following PGD."

When PGD was first introduced in 1990, it was offered so that couples could screen for diseases such as Tay-Sachs, which is inevitably fatal in early childhood. Today, PGD can be used to detect hundreds of conditions, and clinics are offering it so that couples can deselect embryos with even small probabilities of late-onset diseases, such as some forms of cancer and Alzheimer's. As these boundaries are pushed, more voices are calling for oversight and regulation of these technologies.

Related Articles:

bullet Rick Weiss, "Increasingly, Couples Use Embryo Screening," Washington Post (September 21)

bullet "Half fertility clinics allow parents to pick gender," Associated Press (September 20)

bullet Opinion: Will Saletan, "Where Do Babies Come From?" Washington Post (September 17)


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