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Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg works with the laser device that helps prepare embryos for implantation
Jim Young/Reuters/Landov
Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg works with the laser device that helps prepare embryos for implantation

Boy crazy

Medicine | The United States is a new mecca for parents who choose their baby's sex

Issue: "Reassessing the genome," Oct. 6, 2012

Some couples want a baby boy badly. So badly they're willing to fly halfway around the world to get one. Destination? The United States.

Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, director of The Fertility Institutes in Los Angeles and New York City, has for several years offered a fertility procedure allowing affluent couples to choose their baby's gender. Sex selection, outlawed in many countries, is legal in the United States: Steinberg's clinics have treated "thousands" of couples from India, China, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and 142 other nations.

Steinberg recently told the London Evening Standard that he's helped around 400 British couples conceive their choice of a boy or girl. They sometimes pay $45,000 or more for one of Steinberg's package deals that includes treatment, plane tickets, and a hotel. The doctor opened his New York clinic in 2008 to cater to British and European patients, who are perhaps less than an eight-hour flight away. Sex selection is illegal within the United Kingdom, but Steinberg boasted that "leading British politicians" fly to his New York office for that very purpose.

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Steinberg admitted his clinics have recently seen a "huge growth" of Chinese clients. Almost all of them—98 percent—ask for a boy. So do most Indian couples. Both countries ban sex selection, but it's practiced illegally because of cultural preferences for boys.

Several U.S. clinics perform sex selection using preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD): Doctors obtain the couple's sperm and eggs, mix them in a dish, and implant only a few embryos of the desired gender. Steinberg typically performs PGD by fertilizing eight or nine eggs and implanting just one embryo, discarding or freezing the others.

In 2009 Steinberg considered allowing parents to choose their child's eye and hair color, too (see "Eugenics," March 28, 2009). He nixed the idea after a pro-life outcry.

Research roundup


Among U.S. hospitals, there is no uniform policy dictating how long to perform CPR on a patient whose heart has stopped. The Lancet reports that a new study suggests longer is better: CPR patients in hospitals that performed resuscitation efforts the longest (approximately 25 minutes instead of 16) were 12 percent more likely to survive and be discharged. Doctors commenting on the study said prolonged CPR isn't justified in every situation, but some hospitals should probably invest a few more minutes of effort.


After feeding rhesus monkeys meager meals for 25 years, researchers at the National Institute on Aging reported that calorie restriction did not cause the primates to live longer. Their finding, reported in Nature, contradicts earlier studies that show restricted diets increasing the life-span of monkeys, rats, and roundworms. Those studies have launched a health cult of dieters hoping to slow the aging process by eating one-third fewer calories than normal.


The medical records of 300,858 first-time mothers in Finland demonstrate a link between abortion and preterm birth. Human Reproduction reports that Finnish women were slightly more likely to give birth prematurely if they had already undergone one or more induced abortions. Those who had three or more abortions were three times as likely to give birth before 28 weeks. —D.J.D.

Daniel James Devine
Daniel James Devine

Daniel is managing editor of WORLD Magazine and lives in Indiana. Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanJamDevine.


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