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Gender Choice Artificial Insemination: Ethics Controversy
  • By Seo Ji-min, reporter
  • 승인 2023.04.10 09:17
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▲ Free source image associated with artificial insemination technology

On the 22nd, Professor Gianpiero Palermo's team at Weill Cornell Medical School in New York said in the scientific journal, "Plos One," that they succeeded in obtaining embryos of the desired gender with 80% accuracy through artificial insemination technology. Taking advantage of the fact that the weight of the sperm varies depending on whether the chromosome of the sperm is male (Y) or female (X), they selected sperm of the desired gender and injected sperm of Y chromosome for couples who wanted a son and sperm of X chromosome for couples who want a daughter. As a result, 59 couples who want a daughter succeeded in obtaining 231 daughter embryos from 292 artificial inseminations, 79.1% accuracy, and 56 couples who wanted a son obtained 223 son embryos out of 280 artificial inseminations, 79.3% accuracy. According to the study, 16 daughters and 13 sons were born healthy, and no specific disorders such as developmental delays were found until the age of three. "The technology is not only efficient and inexpensive, it is also very safe and ethically acceptable," Palermo added.

However, as the main characteristic of technology is that it can artificially select the sex of the offspring, it is also a subject for debate. Arthur Caplan, a professor at New York University Grossman School of Medicine, said, "As technology develops more and more, there are more opportunities for gender choices. Gender selection can lead to imbalance in society and imbalance in the gender ratio of the population." Dr. Channa Jayasena, dean of the Department of Male Pathology at the Imperial College London, also strongly criticized, "The technical achievements of the Palermo research team are insignificant compared to the serious ethical concerns caused by this study." He added, "The Palermo research team has suggested sperm selection as a, 'relatively ethical,' alternative to embryonic selection, but this is just another way of choosing embryos to manipulate gender and can have a detrimental effect on society. Regulations on related technologies are urgently needed because these technologies can also be applied to select physical characteristics such as skin color or eye color in the future." In fact, it is illegal in many countries to choose the gender of an embryo based on parental preferences without good reasons, such as gender- related diseases. The Republic of Korea also prohibits medical personnel from informing couples of the gender of the fetus before the 32nd week of pregnancy under Article 20 of the Medical Service Act. The regulation was enacted about 30 years ago to prevent the abortion of girls due to the rampant male preference, and it was initially, 'notification impossible,' but was revised to, 'gender discrimination after 32 weeks,' in 2009. In addition, medical personnel who violate the law are subject to up to two years in prison or a fine of up to 20 million won.

Even in Korea, where the idea of preference for boys has been rampant for a long time and the recent phenomenon of preference for daughters has been prominently gaining momentum, the emergence of gender selection artificial insemination technology is undesirable. Choi Kyung- seok, a professor at Ewha Womans University's law school, said, "There were already many technically possible parts, but the reason why we hesitate to apply these technologies is that there will be as much loss as there is control. Embryo selection technology is largely due to individual greed, and once we open the latch, we will inevitably want to control more things such as intelligence and physical strength. It should be a society where people with various talents are socially recognized and pluralistic." In particular, Korea has a shameful history of illegal abortions to give birth to sons during the era of male preference, therefore ethical discussions are essential according to scientific development.

By Seo Ji-min, reporter  jmseo1215@naver.com

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