Couples who want to choose the sex of their baby are paying thousands of pounds to a leading UK fertility doctor to be referred to a clinic in Northern Cyprus.
Gynaecologist Charles Kingsland, clinical director at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital, admits that sex selection is against the law in the UK, but says he is not doing “anything wrong.”
And he is charging couples as much as £14,000 for the privilege of “balancing” their families.
The news came to light as a result of an investigation carried out by the Mail on Sunday.
The paper’s undercover reporter paid £200 for an initial consultation with 53-year-old Mr Kingsland in the Hewitt Centre for Reproductive Medicine, which is based at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital.
Mr Kingsland acknowledged he was aware the treatment was illegal in the UK, but he said many women want to choose the sex of their embryo “just because they fancy it”.
The Mail on Sunday discovered that Mr Kingsland uses NHS premises and staff to organise the medical procedure for profit, charging up to £14,000 for the controversial service – more than four times the cost of standard private fertility treatment.
The doctor also tells patients he must cover up his involvement by claiming to be ‘ignorant’ of their reasons for travelling to Cyprus.
And the top consultant told the Mail on Sunday reporter it was “better your GP doesn’t know anything” about the treatment.
Sex selection for social reasons was made illegal in the UK by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008.
However, the UK Cypriot Fertility Association (UKCFA), in which Mr Kingsland is a shareholder, offers its services to women who want to choose the sex of their child for purely social reasons.
On its website, the UKCFA advertises that the ‘family balancing’ treatment will be carried out at its affiliated clinic, the Cyprus IVF Centre in Famagusta, in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is the only place in Europe where sex selection is legal.
A leading cross-bench Peer has called for an urgent debate into the ‘enormous moral issues’ that Mr Kingsland’s practices raise.
Lord Alton, a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Pro-Life group, said on Saturday: “The HFEA should undoubtedly be debating this issue if it is its duty to ‘shelter the embryo’, as its chair Lisa Jardine has claimed.
“It can make recommendations to Parliament and introduce penalties. The financial connection should be probed. If you have a doctor with a vested interest in organising treatment that’s illegal in the UK, that raises enormous moral issues.”
And Josephine Quintavalle, of the campaign group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said it was shocking that British specialists would dismiss the ethical concerns.
She added: “IVF was developed to address genuine infertility problems, not to facilitate discriminatory social engineering of this kind.
She said that “prejudice against girls” across the world had resulted in countries like China and India practising what is being called “gendercide”.
Commenting on the undercover report, Mr Kingsland said on Saturday, “we haven’t done anything wrong.”