Doctors reject right to choose babies' gender: The BMA in Torquay decides sex selection on social or legal grounds is unethical

DOCTORS rejected their leaders' calls yesterday for couples to be given comprehensive legal rights to choose the sex of their children.

The British Medical Association, meeting in Torquay, decided that sex selection on social or religious grounds was unethical and likely to aggravate problems of sexual discrimination. The decision, the leadership's first defeat, is bound to influence the forthcoming recommendations of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority on sex selection. The HFEA is expected to report to the Government later this year on whether couples planning a family should be allowed routinely to opt for a boy or a girl.

At present, these relatively new techniques are unregulated and lack scientific validation, but one north London clinic has already begun offering services to couples.

In the light of yesterday's vote by rank-and-file doctors, the BMA's ethics committee will have to revise its advice to the HFEA, the statutory regulator of assisted conception services. It will urge the authority to bring in legal safeguards to ensure that sex selection, which can take place before or after conception, should only be allowed for sound medical reasons - where there are clear risks of a child being born with a sex-related genetic defect.

A study of the first sex-selection clinics to open in America, Asia and Europe, highlighted in this week's British Medical Journal, found that 236 couples chose to have boys, while only 15 picked girls.

In yesterday's BMA debate, Angela Thomas, from Lothian, warned that sanctioning gender selection could lead to an unhealthy shift in public attitudes. She added: 'What if they get it wrong, and a boy is born instead of the girl that the couple wanted? That child will feel it is the wrong sex and that it is not loved.' Robin Davies, a member of the BMA's consultants' committee, said: 'This is an example of positive eugenics. When governments do this, we tremble, and when individuals do it we should too.'

But Stuart Horner, chairman of the association's ethics committee, said that he did not object to the notion of a couple undergoing infertility treatment choosing whether to have a male or female embryo implanted in the woman's womb. 'I am as opposed to discrimination as anyone else. That needs to be addressed in political and educational frameworks. It does not have to be addressed in ethics.'

He was supported by Dr Jeremy Lee-Potter, chairman of the BMA council, who declared: 'We should come down on the side of patient choice and autonomy.'

Earlier, the BMA reasserted its long-standing opposition to euthanasia, despite some grassroots calls for its legalisation. Most doctors felt that pain-relief treatments were sufficiently widespread and effective to ensure terminally-ill patients no longer had to endure pain as they died.

Brian Hopkinson, a hospital consultant from Nottingham, warned that legalising euthanasia amounted to giving the medical profession a 'licence to kill', which would wreck the trust between a doctor and vulnerable patients. 'If the state wants to be rid of the demented, the frail and the mentally sick, because their care involves too much time, trouble and taxes, let it hire professional executioners - not cloak it under spurious medical respectability.'

However, the association reasserted its support for advanced directives, so-called 'living wills', in which patients may instruct doctors to withdraw treatment under specified conditions.

Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love and loyalty, say creators
Sport
Sergio Romero saves Wesley Sneijder's penalty
world cup 2014But after defeating the Dutch, Lionel Messi and Argentina will walk out at the Maracana on Sunday as underdogs against Germany
Sport
Scoreboard at the end of the semi-final World Cup match between Brazil and Germany at The Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte
Sport
'Saddest man in Brazil' takes defeat with good grace, handing replica trophy to German fans
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleThe Game of Thrones author said speculation about his health and death was 'offensive'
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil in Jamie Lloyd's Richard III
theatreReview: The monarch's malign magnetism and diabolic effrontery aren’t felt
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips
video
Arts and Entertainment
In his own words: Oscar Wilde in 1882
theatreNew play by the Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials - and what they reveal about the man
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m
filmWith US films earning record-breaking amounts at the Chinese box office, Hollywood is more than happy to take its lead from its new-found Asian audience
News
The garage was up for sale in Canning Place Mews for £500,000
newsGarage for sale for £500,000
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile App/IOS Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC)

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Mobile App/IOS...

Front End Developer-JavaScript, Angular J.S, HTML, CSS, ASP.NET

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front End Deve...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil