Foreign fertility clinics are offering British couples an illegal screening test to allow them to choose the sex of their next child.
A BBC investigation revealed that a Turkish clinic was sending representatives to Britain to market the procedure, which is illegal both in Britain and Turkey.
It involves using pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to identify the sex of an embryo before implanting it in the mother’s womb.
Critics say that the news reflects a growing tendency to treat children as designer accessories rather than inherently precious.
They point to successive relaxations of the laws governing embryology which have fostered a “culture of entitlement”.
In many countries, PGD is only allowed if parents want to avoid passing on a sex-specific inherited disease.
But there are fears that parents who want a child of a particular sex are either ignoring the law or don’t know about it.
Some are risking multiple births by having up to three embryos implanted at a time, which UK doctors say is dangerous.
A ‘universal’ screening test for embryos was unveiled last week, as scientists boasted that they can now test for a vast array of inherited diseases.
They tried to quell fears over designer babies by insisting that the UK’s fertility authority would choose which characteristics the test could be applied to.
But Dr Mark Hamilton, chairman of the British Fertility Society, pointed out that this new test will raise ethical questions.
He said: “We can currently test for several hundred conditions, but the claim is that the spectrum of conditions which could be screened for is enormous.
“But obviously, the ethical question is, if you can screen for anything, where do you draw the line?”
Mike Judge of The Christian Institute said: “A culture of entitlement has been fostered as parents have effectively been led to believe, ‘you can have the child you want’.
“Children should be loved unconditionally, but by heading down the road of ‘designer babies’ we risk turning them into collectors’ items.”