The BBC has exposed a Turkish clinic offering prospective parents in the UK the chance to illegally select the sex of their children. Secret filming carried out in London by BBC reporter Colette McBeth reveals that the Jinemed Center in Istanbul offers to carry out sex selection in Turkey, where it is illegal, as it is in the UK and most of Europe.
The procedure used to select the required gender involves IVF and a technique called PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis). Before implantation, IVF embryos are screened to see if they have both an X and Y chromosome, indicating a male, or the two X chromosomes of a female. PGD is currently used in the UK to screen embryos of couples at risk of passing on sex-related genetic diseases.
Despite fertility experts noting that many patients ask if PGD can be used to select for gender, doctors are reluctant to use it for this purpose; the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has banned the use of PDG for sex selection on 'social' grounds.
McBeth posed with her husband as a couple wanting a daughter, and attended a clinic held by representatives from the Jinemed Center. As the process was explained to them, they were told that three embryos are normally implanted in the womb, but that 'extra fetuses' could be 'taken out' if a multiple pregnancy occurred. McBeth says this 'rang alarm bells'.
Only two embryos are allowed to be transferred during IVF in the UK and some experts advocate the implantation of only one. Professor Peter Braude of Kings College London expressed his concerns about the use of multiple embryos saying, 'putting three embryos back in a young woman is really bad practice because of the high risk of multiple pregnancy... besides the impact on the NHS there's significant impact on those babies'.
The centre is now being investigated by the Turkish government who have warned patients not to travel there for treatment. Despite being shown the BBC's footage, the Jinemed Center denies offering sex selection and insists it always warns patients about the risks of multiple births.
Recent research indicates that the NHS is suffering under the strain of multiple births arising from women who have been treated abroad by doctors who implant multiple foetuses.