Claude Humeau

Choosing Your Child’s Sex Publication date : June 7, 2012

A recognised specialist in medically assisted procreation, Claude Humeau is an emeritus professor at the medical faculty of Montpellier (France). He formerly headed a department at the University of Montpellier’s teaching hospital. He is the author of Les Médecines de procréation (1994) and Procréer. Histoire et représentations (1999).

Recent medical technologies have made it possible to overcome many natural reproductive “disorders”. Most reproductive technologies aim to compensate for infertility and some to prevent genetic anomalies. But now a third use for medically assisted procreation (MAP) has emerged: the choice of the child’s sex, which may in some cases aim to prevent the birth of carriers of genetic anomalies, but usually simply responds to parental convenience or desire — the first step towards a brave new world of “custom-built” babies that is both enticing and frightening.
This is scarcely a new idea and it has given rise to many preposterous proposals and schemes. But what can the latest methods of MAP actually do today?
Don’t existing procedures, assuming that they actually work, imply excessive constraints? Are they harmless for mother and child alike? What are the financial costs? What impact could the widespread use of such procedures have on the population, on demographics and even on the social order? And, above all, don’t they violate our societies’ ethical rules?
After recounting the colourful history of all the ways and means that humanity has imagined in response to a variety of human reproductive wishes and demands, Professor Claude Hameau assesses the efficacy and limitations of the latest MAP techniques.

• Is it really possible to choose a child’s sex? How reliable are the existing methods? What problems would such a choice pose? An eminent specialist answers these questions.