Letter: A matter of sex, life and death

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Sir: Last Friday a Leeds coroner gave his final word on the life of a woman who died after an abortion (report, 5 March): the agencies involved had shown no lack of care, but she had been devious and dishonest. Her offence had been to ask for an abortion without revealing that she knew the baby's sex.

The case touches on a topical dilemma: whether the baby's sex can be a factor in the decision to have an abortion. This idea frightens us, because it seems like the tip of an iceberg. What if everybody wanted to choose the sex of their child? What if the sex ratio of our society became severely unbalanced?

Yet for an individual mother, the difference between a fourth child of the same sex and a desperately desired child of the other sex could well make the difference between a burden that would tip over into depression, and one that could be sustained.

So what are we supposed to conclude from the coroner's remarks on Sarbjit Lall's death? Was it divine retribution? Was her death of little consequence, given her moral shortcomings? Perhaps he thought it would be a warning to women facing similar temptations.

I feel angry that Mrs Lall's character has been so publicly denigrated, and at the distress this must cause her family. And that the coroner's attention has been diverted from its proper focus on the medical events that led to her death.

Yours faithfully,

KAREN SHIPP

Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire

7 March

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