Ethical Issues in Gender Selection (IVF)

Ethical Issues in Gender Selection (IVF)

Technological development has come with solutions for all of our problems. That includes bringing solace to couples who cannot have children naturally by opting for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).

IVF entails the fertilisation of the ovum by a sperm cell outside the human body, in a laboratory procedure.  The fertilised egg is then implanted in the womb of the donating mother or a surrogate mother.

Because doctors have direct interaction with the embryo, they can manipulate cell division and unnaturally decide on the embryo’s characteristics, among which gender.

Deciding on the gender of the child has been done for several reasons, including the couple’s preference and family balance. But while this is good news for the couple, gender selection has elicited heated debates around some critical ethical issues. Here are 4 of the most discussed ethical consideration in IVF gender selection.

1.    The ‘designer baby’ quandary

Medical practitioners are advertising IVF and related procedures. You can choose the colour of your baby’s eyes or, as is our attention, the sex. For many who are against IVF sex selection, the product is a ‘designer baby’ made in the taste of the parent.

Ethical issues stemming from this interrogate the parent’s capacity to make decisions that have always been left to nature. In extreme situations, children who may not turn out as their parents designed them may be welcome with rejection. Besides, the mother may opt to terminate the pregnancy if the girl they created turns out to be a boy. The dilemma: how far we can juggle with human life?

2.    The ‘doctor creator’ dilemma

Even though considerable numbers of people are buying into gender selection advancement, many others are questioning the doctor’s right to make such a crucial decision. We have not been able to make humans in their original nature until now, which implies a power beyond us that decides on human life. Those disputing gender selection on this basis consider that a creator chooses to upon life. The ethical quandary here:  should the doctor play the creator’s role that does not belong to him?

3.    The ‘gender-imbalanced’ world consideration

What if the world had all women or all men in the future? The eventual consequence would be the extinction of humanity. Gender selection may be biased on socio-cultural preferences.

In societies where the boy child is ‘an asset,’ girls may be facing extinction and vice versa. The possible gender imbalance that may result from the selection raises a key moral and social issue. Is it ok to have a hand in deciding what gender majorly characterises humanity or determine humanity’s possible future extinction?

4.    The ‘gender superiority’ dilemma

As if the common issues of gender discrimination were not enough, gender selection is adding salt to an existing wound. We are creating an environment where the perception will be complicated over issues of a ‘wrong choice’ or a ‘laboratory error’. Besides, with preferences for a particular gender, the discriminated gender will be subject to profoundly rooted prejudice. The ethical issue: should doctors and couples subject innocent children to social discrimination over ‘unnatural’ gender selection?

Final thought

As with many other ethical issues creating heated debates among various schools of thought today, gender selection will always be read from a dual perspective: those for and those against the practice.  Everyone is different and will have different opinions on this matter however, in a relativistic world, the side you choose is your right.

Science & Nature