Couples resort to designer babies
Hundreds of Australian couples are paying more than $20,000 for designer babies by choosing their children's eye colour and sex through a US clinic, using genetic screening condemned as "eugenics''.
The Fertility Institutes, with clinics in Los Angeles, New York and Mexico, revealed yesterday that it has helped 370 Australian couples choose their child's gender - a practice banned in Australia.
Fourteen couples had paid the clinic to select their child's eye colour - with blue eyes the most popular.
Brisbane geneticist Professor David Coman, who helped draw up the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) ban on using IVF to choose a baby's gender or appearance, yesterday blasted the eye-colour selection as "eugenics'' and "grossly inappropriate in the Australian culture''.
"This is what the Nazis were wanting to do - this is eugenics,'' he told The Sunday Mail.
Brisbane obstetrician Dr Gino Pecoraro said he was "very alarmed'' that anyone would offer eye colour selection through IVF.
"The implications are frightening,'' he said.
In a statement to The Sunday Mail, The Fertility Institutes said critics were "out of line and clearly out of touch'', and the criticism was "juvenile and uninformed''.
"One should be very, very careful before assigning any aspect of science to Nazism,'' it said.
The fertility clinic said that choosing a baby's eye colour "is important to those electing it''.
The clinic boasts a 90 to 95 per cent success rate in choosing a baby's eye colour for parents who are pre-screened to carry the correct "genetic codes''.
Controversially, it claims that Australian medicos are co-operating with the offshore clinic.
"Our nurses assist our patients in finding a clinic local to them where they can start the treatment,'' a Fertility Institutes representative said.
"However we do not disclose the location or name of the clinic until you become a patient.''
The representative said that due to "high demand'' there was an 18-month wait for eye-colour selection, which is done by gene testing the parents and selecting embryos created through in- vitro fertilisation (IVF).
Queensland Fertility Group specialist Dr David Molloy warned choosing eye colour was ethically wrong, and could lead to people screening other characteristics such as "intelligence, sporting ability, height and weight".
The NHMRC yesterday warned it would be illegal for Australian doctors to co-operate with foreign clinics offering selection for gender or eye colour.
It said Australian doctors could only use sex selection through IVF to screen out diseases or abnormalities that would "severely limit the quality of life of the person who would be born'', or to increase the likelihood of a live birth.