"Please doctor, we have three girls and we want to know the sex of our new baby," says the couple seeking prenatal diagnosis. "Can you help us?"
The ethical dilemma facing the physician in such cases, although perhaps less pressing than some in applied human genetics, is certainly one of the most difficult to resolve in all of medicine.
Because abortion is a procedure that never elicits a noncommittal response, and because many genetics counselors are pediatricians who regard the fetus as the primary patient, it is extremely difficult for the counselor not to interfere in the decisions of parents seeking fetal sex determination for the purpose of choosing the sex of their next child.
In fact, the nature of the physician-patient relationship and way in which the physician presents the information learned from prenatal diagnosis (mainly amniocentesis) invariably influences the parents' decision.
There is some debate, however, about the