Published September 13, 2011
A Council of Europe committee has drafted a resolution that could keep parents-to-be in the dark concerning the gender of the fetus, according to the Daily Telegraph.
The committee says that instructing medical staff to withhold gender information will prevent some parents from “selectively aborting” based on whether the child is a boy or a girl.
Gender can be determined through an ultrasound at 14 to 16 weeks. It is up to the government to decide when abortions can be performed. In Britain, abortions can be performed as late as 24 weeks.
Those against the resolution point out that parents will be upset, and question why the practice should be implemented in Europe, where selective abortion is not nearly as prevalent a problem as it is elsewhere.
Before any concerns are raised here in the United States, I want to reassure current medical laws prevent the implementation of this practice in our country. Any documented medical data done on a patient here immediately becomes the patient’s property.
With regard to the resolution being applied in Europe, I have to say, it doesn’t necessarily surprise me, but I definitely do not agree with it.
While there are cases of parents who specifically want an ultrasound so they can consider sex selection, the practice of withholding information from a patient falls against the foundation of a doctor-patient relationship.
Essentially, it violates the ethics we as doctors swear to uphold, which emphasize honesty and informed consent.
Furthermore, it can be important for parents to know the sex of their child, because there are sex-related genetic illnesses that can run in families, such as certain metabolic disorders and Duchenne's and Becker's muscular dystrophies, which are passed from mother to son.
I hope European legislators consider these matters carefully when deciding whether or not to implement any new laws that will most likely damage the doctor-patient relationship and perhaps even cause excess stress for parents-to-be.