Navigating the Ethical Challenges of Family Balancing through Gender Selection

A “balanced family” is one in which there is an equal number of male and female children. Many parents  desire to complete their families with a son or a daughter, who would balance their family. 

With advanced ART-based technology, family balancing is possible. However, gender selection for non-medical reasons as part of family balancing has become a controversial topic and has sparked critical ethical questions that deserve our attention. 

In this blog, we’ll explore what gender selection is, the reasons behind this process, and the ethical principles guiding our decisions.

What is family balancing and gender selection?

Family balancing refers to the desire of some individuals or couples to have a balanced gender distribution among their children. It is the practice of deliberately choosing to have children of different genders to achieve a specific gender composition within the family. 

For instance, a couple with two sons may desire a daughter as their next child to balance the genders in their family.

Whereas gender selection is the process of intentionally choosing the sex or gender of a child before conception or during the early stages of pregnancy. It is a method to achieve family balance by ensuring that the desired gender is conceived.

However, it’s important to note that gender selection can also be used for other reasons, such as to prevent sex-linked genetic diseases.

What are the benefits of gender selection?

Patients usually consider gender selection for two reasons:

  • To screen for certain genetic disorders linked to gender, for example, hemophilia or muscular dystrophy. It is recommended for couples who have certain genetic diseases linked to one gender. Selecting the gender unaffected by the disease can prevent these.
  • To balance their family with a child of the opposite sex.

Family balancing through gender selection is a deeply personal decision for couples. Before considering any method, it is crucial for individuals to understand the legal and ethical implications in the country and to consult with healthcare professionals to explore the available options and make informed choices.

What are the methods of gender selection?

Gender selection methods are techniques used to increase the likelihood of conceiving a child of a specific gender. Here are some standard methods of gender selection:

  • Preimplantation genetic testing (PGT): In this method, embryos are created through IVF, and a small sample of cells is taken from each embryo to determine its sex through genetic testing. Only embryos of the desired gender are selected for transfer to the uterus. This is a more precise and authentic way of selecting the normal embryo and  specific gender.
  • Sperm Sorting: This technique separates sperm cells based on their X and Y chromosomes, which determine the sex of the child. Sperm of the desired gender is then used in either artificial insemination or IVF. Sperm sorting is not an accurate method of sperm selection for family balancing.

What are the ethical challenges of family balancing through gender selection?

Family balancing through gender selection poses several ethical challenges that have been subject to debates and discussions within the medical, legal, and ethical communities. 

Some of the key ethical concerns include:

  • One of the possible objections to non-medical sex selection is the long-term medical risks of some procedures via PGS and IVF  to offspring are unknown, and additional risks are unjustified. 
  • There are also concerns about the risks of gender bias and social injustice by implying that one gender is preferred over another.
  • Sex selection involves sex discrimination and can cause an imbalance in the sex ratio. This imbalance already exists in some Asian countries that favor male children, like China and India.

It is crucial for society to engage in open, informed, and respectful discussions regarding family balancing through gender selection. 

Legislation and regulations may need to address some of these ethical challenges and ensure that the practice, if permitted, is conducted carefully, considering the potential consequences on individuals and society.

What is the argument supporting the use of gender selection for family balancing?

Patient autonomy and reproductive liberty is the right of the patient to make decisions about their medical care without their healthcare provider trying to influence the decision. 

Patient autonomy allows the healthcare providers to educate the patient but does not allow them to decide for the patient. Parents may have their reasons to parent a child of a particular sex. 

Parents undergoing IVF for medical reasons may wish to include PGT for sex selection. Parents who cannot conceive naturally may seek In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) with PGT for sex selection to avoid unnecessary pregnancy termination of the undesired sex.

Contact Dr. Partha Das to learn more about family balancing.

If you want more information on gender selection and family balancing, contact Dr. Partha Das.

Dr. Partha Das leads one of the best family balancing in Dubai, offering safe and highly effective consultations and treatments. If you are a parent planning your next child, feel free to consult him to learn more about family balancing.

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