What's the Latest Development?
General Electric and Philips have patent applications pending in the US and China for software that will allow ultrasound machines to suppress image data of a fetus' genital area, effectively preventing the technician -- and the parents -- from knowing the baby's gender ahead of time. Students Sonya Davey, Samir Devalaraja and Neil Davey say that the existence of this add-on software "would be effective and relatively inexpensive" and question why patents haven't been filed in India, where "a technological block would directly disable the overt crime of sex determination."
What's the Big Idea?
Sex determination and abortion based on gender has been illegal in India since 1994, yet the authors note that the 2011 child sex ratio was 919 girls to 1,000 boys, a 48-point drop from 1981. With thousands of cheap ultrasound machines in use, it's hard to determine how a mass software update would work. There's also the not-so-simple matter of social and cultural preferences for sons. However, say the authors, "Societal responsibility falls just as much on corporations as it does on citizens and governments...These companies have the ethical responsibility of solving an international social crisis." Along with Siemens, General Electric and Philips control 72 percent of India's ultrasound market.
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