The use of this technique could be particularly relevant for families
who have more than one boy with autism, since males are about four times more
likely to have autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Dr Gary Geelhoed, Chief Medical Officer at the Government of Western
Australia's Department of Health, noted that the genetic nature of the illness means
that families with a child affected by ASD are at higher risk of having further
children with the condition. 'But there's no simple test', he said. 'In this
case, the council considers those at risk of having another child, a boy with
severe autism, they will use this technique to ensure a healthy girl is born'.
Western Australia's health authorities will consider applications on a case-by-case
basis, looking at the specific circumstances such as the number of family
members already affected by the disorder.
There have been conflicting reports in relation to whether sex
selection will be applied to embryos via PGD (as reported in both The West
Australian and Forbes) or whether sperm will be screened prior to fertilisation
(as reported by ABC News).
The technique is controversial as its use does not guarantee a healthy
outcome. Environmental factors have been shown to impact the way the disorder
develops, and identifying the syndrome
in girls may also be more difficult since ASD may manifest differently than in
In the UK, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 bans sex selection
in IVF except for medical reasons, such as those related to sex-linked inherited
disorders. According to The West
Australian, the UK's HFEA is considering the possibility of including ASD under its list
of conditions to allow clinics to test for using PGD.