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Monday, 23 October, 2000, 13:13 GMT 14:13 UK
The Mastertons webcast: transcript
Mastertons graphic
Nicole and her parents
Welcome to a special BBC News Online Scotland webcast with Alan and Louise Masterton. I'm Mick McGlinchey.

Alan and Louise are the couple who've made international headlines in their attempt to ensure the sex of a baby.

They lost their daughter, Nicole, three, who died last year in a bonfire accident.

They have four sons and want to have another baby girl, but they don't want to leave it to chance.

They want to use a procedure involving invitro-fertilisation to ensure the child's sex, but they need the permission of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the HFEA.

Their case has provoked extreme reactions, from total support to outright condemnation.

Over the past week or so, BBC News Online Scotland has been inviting you to send your questions to Alan and Louise, who are with me now.

We've had many e-mails from round the world. Before we get to them, Alan and Louise, can you explain how you came to find yourselves in the position you're in just now?

ALAN: What brought us to this position we're at now was after a couple of months after we lost Nicole, and we were still in a state of shock, in fact I think we'll be in shock for the rest of our lives.

LOUISE: Absolutely.

ALAN: The loss of a child isn't something you get over.

LOUISE: You have to put a brave face on every day.

ALAN: We felt that Nicole brought two separate things to our family, she brought her own personality, her own individual idiosyncrasies and also she brought a female dimension to the family. That's the only way I can describe it.

It's basically how she interacted with her brothers, how she interacted with us, her parents, and how the boys interacted with her - how they looked after her and they would go to the shops and the like.

LOUISE: When they got their pocket money, they would always buy her a wee bag of sweets.

It was because she was a sister, they would never have done it for a wee brother.

ALAN: That's an example of the female dimension. Every one of the brothers was protective towards her.They wouldn't have harmed her.

LOUISE: When I was pregnant with Nicole, I went up to have my first scan with Adam and he burst into tears of joy when we were told it was a girl. He was elated at the thought of having a wee sister.

REPORTER: Thank you for that. We've mentioned the HFEA, the authority which governs such issues, and they've said today that they've no plans to change the rules in your case. Where to now?

ALAN: It's just on to - to be fair we never expected them to change the rules, they're a very autocratic and arrogant authority.

We never expected them to change their point of view. So this is why we move on now to the new - we've been waiting since last January when our application was circumvented by the HFEA, we've been waiting since then until the new Human Rights Act was enacted on second of October in England.

REPORTER: You're not surprised at the position of the HFEA, in what ways will you take forward your case now?

ALAN: It just has to be a legal challenge, through the new act. Our family solicitors are at present taking advice from a QC in Edinburgh on how the new act is, how the mechanism for taking a challenge through is carried out.

REPORTER: There has been a question put as to a designer baby.

ALAN: Yes.

REPORTER: We know you intensely dislike that phrase, if you could explain to us why you dislike this?

LOUISE: A designer baby to me means, you want to choose the colour of eyes, hair, how intelligent it's going to be, will it like music, be a gymnast, how tall it's going to be. That's a designer baby to me.

I don't care what colour of eyes, I just want a wee girl.

ALAN: To us, the phrase designer baby is used by authorities, such authorities as we've mentioned earlier as the sort of people's ghost, when people hear the word designer baby, as it does us, it makes us recoil, it's because of the association with that terminolgy.

Ourselves, like most reasonable thinking people, we think we are reasonable thinking people, we feel anyone who would seek a so-called designer baby would be a shallow type of person. What we seek, as I've said before, is the chance.

After 15 years, we got our precious Nicole, we're looking to go some way to help the family and bring a life into this world that'll be much loved and cared for.

LOUISE: And wanted.

REPORTER: Thank you for answering those questions. Now we're going to turn to some of the e-mails we've received from BBC News Online users.

The first one is from James Smith, who gives his address as UK. He asks: "Why did you want a girl, surely any parent would be ecstatic with a baby of either sex as long as it is fit and healthy?"

ALAN: That's a legitimate question, it's a question we've both often been asked.

If I can take it in two parts, the first part being that we wanted the girl prior to having Nicole and we want a girl now.

The first part is we wanted a girl because before we had Nicole we wanted a girl because we had a boy and we had another boy, and we felt it's like asking somebody why do you love that person? Or how do you love that person? It's a subjective thing again, it's hard to put your finger on what elements of nature are at play here.

LOUISE: You feel it to the core of your soul that's what you desire.

ALAN: The main difference is before we wanted a girl and after the experience of Nicole, experience which she brought to us and our family, we feel we need a girl. Before it was a want, now it's very much a need.

REPORTER: This question from Catherine Carey, UK: "What possible medical reason can you supply for wanting a wee girl, a baby is just a baby, what medical reason can you supply for wanting to have a baby girl? The baby would still be a symbol of love for each other and the family. I wish you all the luck in the world, but a child is a child, are you saying you wouldn't love a boy just as much?"

LOUISE: No, I would love a boy just as much, but I've got four boys and the female element of the family's gone now.

Alan used to go out and do clay pigeon shooting and various things with the boys and Nicole and I would do girlie things at home.

I don't have that anymore and it's missing in our family.

ALAN: It goes back to the interaction point. I would take Nicole to a our local park and local zoo, just myself, and likewise we do things as a family and things with the boys, now.

When Nicole was here, I did things individually with the boys and individually with Nicole. It was because she was a female and we did things differently with her than we do with the boys.

REPORTER: A lot of people asking the question 'why', but in various ways.Paul Molineaux, UK: "I've heard the Mastertons' claim; for 15 years they've tried for a baby girl. I'd like to ask them would they be happier if they learned to accept the wonderful gifts they already have been given. Why do they believe they have the right to a baby girl?"

ALAN: Why does any parent have the right to any child? If you, as adults decide you want to have a child, who has the right to condemn you for that decision? It's just natural, it's a natural decision that you reach as a loving couple and a family.

REPORTER: Another one from Catherine, who's in the USA but from England, and says: "As a mother of a grown-up daughter, I can understand the mother wanting a little girl. I feel if a person can choose a sex because of medical reason, then why not for love? Is it in your reason for wanting a a little girl, is it love that's behind this?"

LOUISE: I adored having a daughter. I love my sons, but it was different having a wee girl I adored. She made me feel whole and complete and my family was complete, I feel I should have four boys and a little girl. I'm well aware I'll never get Nicole back, but I would love the chance to have another daughter and it'll be her sister.

REPORTER: Now a last 'why' question, it's from Ellie from the UK, she asks: "Millions of people have, unfortunately lost children, why can't you deal with your tragic loss as other parents would have to? If you don't want a daughter to replace your lost daughter, why do you want one? Can't you see that it's not right to mess with nature?"

ALAN: We don't accept the second part of that question or statement. If it's incorrect to mess with nature, why have the contraceptive pill? Why allow 200,000 babies a year to be aborted legally, and the vast majority of that 200,000 aborted for social reasons, over 90%, 100,000-odd babies aborted every year.

LOUISE: I could do, that, I could legally in this country, I would be allowed to have abortion after abortion, because they're males, surely it's more correct not to do that and have a wee girl in the first place.

ALAN: What we're trying to do is create another life into this world, bring another human being into this world. We're not about destroying anything. All we want is another human being here to love.

LOUISE: Another wee girl would bring sunshine through the dark cloud that Alan and I and our boys, carry around with us always and another wee girl would bring sunshine and sparkle back into our home.

ALAN: The only thing we would expect of her, the other thing that's often levelled at us, what our expectations would be? Our only expectations of her would be that she would be her own self and we'd love her for whoever she was, and that's basically what we're about.

We don't expect her to be another Nicole, be like her sister. We have four boys, every one of them's very much an individual, no-one can tell us how individual human beings have, we have four good human beings, at the moment, we had five at one time.

REPORTER: Thanks for those answers Moving on, you've talked before about the psychological need for a daughter, and this is Melanie from the UK, picking up on this and asking: "What's your psychological need for a daughter? Many people have same sex families and they're detrimental to no-one?"

ALAN: That's correct and that statement on its stand alone self is 100% correct. However, much of these single gender families haven't had the experience of both genders in their family. We've had a situation where we've had a girl in our family, when we had the four boys. Although we felt we wanted another girl, if we'd been unsuccessful in having another girl, then we'd probably would have given up.

LOUISE: No, I wouldn't have, I would have gone on and on. I would have had a football team.

ALAN: At some point we'd have been happy with the boys, to enter into that question is to say there's something wrong with one gender as opposed to the other. We've had the wonderful experience of having both genders in our family and it's now a single-gender family.

LOUISE: What is that expression? You don't know what you've missed until you don't have it anymore, is that the expression? Well, we miss having the wee girl we had. If we'd never have had Nicole, we wouldn't have known what it was like to have had a wee girl. We've had a wee girl and we miss having a wee girl. It isn't because she was all frilly and bows very much, because she was a tomboy.

ALAN: That was part of her individual character.

LOUISE: She hated getting her hair done and frocks on so it's not.

ALAN: It is not we want a dolly to dress up, we just want another daughter and the next one may be one that likes frills and frocks.

LOUISE: Which would be okay.

ALAN: Her sister wasn't.

REPORTER: Moving on to a question from Mary Ann Rennie from Australia: "Why don't they adopt or foster and give some unfortunate child a chance of a family life?"

ALAN: That's another good question. Again, there's two different issues here, there's a number of issues.

LOUISE: Could I just say the one on the foster?

ALAN: Yeah.

LOUISE: If somebody gave me a child to foster, I wouldn't want to hand it over, because I love children, I would literally have had a football team but I couldn't hand them back, because I would just grow to love them. If somebody said here's a wee child that's going to be yours, you can have it, I would instantly fall in love with it, knowing it was going to be mine and it would break my heart too much to hand it over.

ALAN: On the adoption front, on Tayside as it used to be known, Tayside region, Dundee district there's something like eight couples for every child that's put into the adoption system, or each baby, that really, with our age and also the fact we have four boys, we'd be well down the adoption list and it would be many years before we'd get a child.

REPORTER: This is another question on the area of adoption and this one is from Jo Sears, who lives in Peru and she writes, basically she says, this is a two parter, part one: "As this kind of fertility treatment, i.e. sex selection, is only available in the UK in the case of strong medical reasoning, what justification can the Mastertons give for pursuing this avenue?

LOUISE: That's not true, you can get sex selection in this country.

ALAN: The only reason we have this battle on our hands is because we have to go through one of the two routes available in the UK, the route that would be open to us if we didn't have - if Louise wasn't sterilised - is the artificial insemination route. Now there are centres in the UK, because they don't use these in conjunction with an IVF treatment, no licence is required from HFEA, you merely turn up at the clinic on the desired day and the sperm is enriched, either XY or XX, it's artificially inseminated.

LOUISE: At the correct time of the woman's cycle.

ALAN: The sperm is enriched either male or female as you so require, and there's no interest from the HFEA on that procedure, in our case after having Nicole in 1995, Louise was sterilised in 1996 and so the only option open to us is IVF.

LOUISE: We've made enquiries about getting it reversed, but there would be a danger to my health, it could cause ectopic pregnancies, and so the boys have already lost a sister and you can die with an ectopic pregnancy.

ALAN: These are risks we're not prepared to take as a family. Like I say, if we went to use this separation technique, in conjunction with an IVF procedure, the HFEA would ask on the application form the full extent of a procedure the licence was for, and the minute this separation process was mentioned the licence would be refused.

REPORTER: We'll go the second part of Jo Sears' question which is: "If they really want another daughter, why are they not considering adoption, when there are 5,000 children in the UK alone hoping to be adopted?"

ALAN: We've answered that previously, in our area it's not an option and we feel to be honest the technology exists to allow us to have our own child and we don't see any reason why we should be denied access to at least try that avenue.

REPORTER: A question here, a couple of questions, which relate to your sons, this one from Holly in the USA. She asks a couple of questions, but expresses some views as well. She asks: "How are your sons, how do they feel about this, I'm sure they miss Nicole and a new sister wouldn't replace her, but a new member of the family would help heal them too, it's a tribute to her memory to try for a girl. I also believe that brothers are so much better off with at least one sister living with them, it'll teach them to respect and protect women in adulthood."

LOUISE: Thank you, I totally agree with her.

ALAN: This is one angle lots of people have overlooked, as well as being a part of the family and interacting with the boys, the boys learned how to basically interact with Nicole and they learned respect. We just feel that.

LOUISE: They took care of their sister far more - more caring way than they did one another.

ALAN: As you know between boys, there's competive spirit which can erupt into all sorts of situations and it was the absolute opposite with Nicole, it was very much protective.

LOUISE: They would read her bedtime stories, they wouldn't do that for one another, they only did it for their wee sister, they just adored, all of them adored having a wee girl

ALAN: We have a very open family, we discuss everything with the boys, take them through every part of this with us. If any of the boys had any problems with what we're trying to do and we couldn't rectify these problems by talking to them then we'd stop this immediately.

REPORTER: There are some people who ask us about the technological side of this, one question from Richey Smith from Wales, and you're asked: "Do you accept that yours is a borderline case, where do you think the limits of genetic manipulation should be set?

ALAN: We don't accept, you possibly wouldn't expect us to accept our case as a borderline case, we think we're well in the ballpark for consideration. All we've asked from the HFEA is our application be considered on its own specific merits.

All we ask is a fair hearing of the case we've made with the HFEA which was circumvented back in January. We ask nothing more than that, we're sure that we're talking to reasonable people in the HFEA. The authority are, they're made up of lawyers, school teachers, these people when they read, if they're allowed access to our application, we're confident they'll see the reason behind our specific circumstances and hopefully deliver a positive result eventually.

REPORTER: More of a view than a question, from Maddy Clelland Harris from the UK, basically she says: "If there is a God and he's put people on this earth to develop this kind of technology and then taken away a young life, why shouldn't we use the technology?" Do you concur with those views?

ALAN: We do, one of the questions, we often get set to us is do you think this is playing God? And one of the answers we give is God gave these brilliant people with the intelligence and hands to create this fantastic technology, and ultimately if we ever get to the stage where we have embryos implanted, it'll be in God's hands if these embryos are to develop into a human being.

REPORTER: Quite an abrupt question from Mitchie from Scotland, who says: "I think they're being selfish and this is an insult to their sons. Much as they loved their daughter, they're effectively saying they only ever kept trying to get a daughter, even though it took four sons. They could have a child naturally tomorrow, they should take what life gives them, not meddle simply to choose a designer family. Is this baby also going to be screened not only for its sex but to ensure it has no medical problems too? If so, where do we stop?"

ALAN: One of the wonderful things in this country, everyone's entitled to their own view, long may that be. What we're fighting for is to be heard and have our case heard. Mitchie has as much right to his view as anyone else.

LOUISE: He hasn't been reading the papers though, because we can't have one naturally.

ALAN: The first issue is we can't have one naturally because Louise has been sterilised. None of our boys have a problem with what we're trying to do.

LOUISE: They don't feel they were not wanted because we were trying for a wee girl. I got a letter from my son Scott the other day and it said: "Dear mum, I love you so much, there's not enough words to tell you how much I love you. I don't know what I can do to repay you for being such a wonderful mum, love Scott, have a nice day."

REPORTER: One more on this area, this is Ben Ashley from France: "In my view there are no religious ethics involved here, if technology allows it and the couple want it, who has the right to say it's unethical?"

ALAN: This is a statement lots of people, last Thursday, we received 28 letters from ordinary people all over this country, and one from Ireland and 26 of the 28 were along these sorts of lines. We'd photographs of people's families, their daughters and sons, overwhelmingly people wishing us well, asking the same question, this technology exists, why are the authorities standing in your way?

LOUISE: If there's technology out there to help a family, why not use it?

ALAN: Dr Fishel framed it well this morning, he was in London on a feed in we were doing for another programme, he said: "Look, the IVF world, IVF technology is developed to relieve suffering, suffering of different types, given the circumstances of our case, this technology would not only bring another great wonderful human being into this world, but it would relieve lots of suffering in this family." And we couldn't put it any better than that.

REPORTER: Let's go to the questions, lots of questions on the demographics.

REPORTER: Jack Doerflinger from the USA: "What happens when there are more men than women in a given population, can we equalise this on balance to allow for each person to have a mate?"

LOUISE: What we're trying to do is replace the balance, there should be a wee girl on this planet that's not here anymore.

ALAN: In reply to that specific question, the greatest harbingers, the most important things for procreation purposes were the two world wars. Human nature has a great way of redressing these horrendous situations. The last figures I was able to obtain were the World Health Organisation figures for 1998 and they put the world population at 51% female and 49% male and as we know, both world wars, took many millions of men in their prime from the face of the earth and this balance has redressed itself.

REPORTER: An interesting question here from one user, it says: "I'm sorry for your loss and I hope another child will bring you joy, but as you stated that you want a girl are you trying to recreate your lost daughter, and if so will the new child be given room to develop its own personality or will it be overshadowed by the memory of its sister. Please bear in mind that this question isn't meant to cause you pain or anger, it's something I've been thinking over. Once again, the best of luck."

LOUISE: We've got four boys, they're all different and we wouldn't expect. We could have 100 little girls and none of them would ever be Nicole and we'd love a little girl.

ALAN: For herself. All that we, we tell our boys this constantly, we say look, boys in this life, all we expect you to do is do the best you can. If you want to be a postie or a lawyer or a brickie or a doctor, then be that person.

LOUISE: So long as you're happy.

ALAN: But be the best doctor or the best brickie or the best postman that you can be, and then be happy, that's all we expect of any of our kids and another daughter would be brought into our family and she would be brought up in the same way as we brought up the boys and Nicole with the same standards of care and love that everybody else in our family has. Nothing more would be expected of her or anything less.

Of course she would be told about her sister, because no-one in our family will ever forget Nicole, that'll never happen, but in the same vein there'll be no comparisons made, no expectation made of another girl.

REPORTER: An e-mail from Sarah Mackin, from England: "How sad you wish to use the Human Rights Act to reject all your sons, male embryos would without question be created in the procedure you would wish to undergo, is this what your daughter would have wanted, her brothers thrown in the bin in her memory?"

LOUISE: They wouldn't be thrown in the bin.

ALAN: An excellent question from Sarah, there's two issues there. The Human Rights Act, we're using this act to make a challenge to the HFEA to have our case heard. If you apply through any government authority and they circumvent your application, whether it be for a licence for a pub or licence for your car or something as crucial as an IVF licence, surely you have the right as a subject of this country to object to the way your application has been circumvented. We're not using the Human Rights Act to apply directly for the right to have another daughter, we're applying the Human Rights Act to have our case heard by the 21 members of the lay committee of the HFEA who should have seen our documents back in January, but who were not allowed to do so by the chairperson of the HFEA and the legal department.

On the male embryo point, as we've said before there would be no loss of viable embryos in any procedure that we had done. The male embryos, if they were viable embryos, often, naturally and through IVF there are embryos created which will never develop into anything. If there were any viable embryos, they would be frozen for use by childless couples. There's an opportunity there for other people to have the joy and happiness we've had through our boys and our children.

REPORTER: A question on the IVF treatment, from Sally Cakebread who asks: "Have you looked into the possibility of getting IVF treatment abroad in order to have a daughter? Are you prepared to pay for all the costs involved?"

LOUISE: If we won the lottery?

ALAN: The answer to all these points is yes. Again another excellent point is the IVF treatment. When we started looking at PGD and we discovered it was a big problem in this country, we thought let's look at the alternatives where it's done. It's done in parts of Europe, it's done in America, it's done in Australia. However, the costs are so prohibitive it costs around 1,500, 2,000 in this country, in the States it's $15,000 for the actual process itself. When you put accommodation and flight costs on that you're looking at somewhere in the ballpark of $20,000. It's price prohibitive.

I've just come through a five-year law course at Dundee University. I've basically subsidised my law studies to the tune of around 30,000, to look at another $20,000 would be out of the question for us.

REPORTER: This from Gareth in the UK: "To choose the sex of your baby is cancelling out the natural selection process. If you start with the selection of the baby how much further will it go, will people try to justify choosing their baby's eye colour, hair colour, height or IQ, or even if a child has a physical or mental disability? Do we have a right to choose who should live or who should die?"

ALAN: That's another good question from Gareth. The first point here really is on discussing this issue with the scientists that are involved with PGD and IVF, we're in reality a way off from a scientific point being able to select things like colour of hair, colour of eyes, intelligence level, as much as the genome project is uncovering, they reckon we're years away from that at the minute. As I've said in previous programmes, if the guy that wants to make the case for designer babies thinks he has a strong enough case for that position, then let him make that case.

The case I'm making is for our specific circumstances - and it's not a case for designer babies, it's a case for people who've lost children in the future where if they desire, they can approach the HFEA to have their situation heard, no automatic route through to a licence to be able to submit an application to the HFEA which will be considered. That route at the minute is blocked. That's all we're looking for, it's simply the route to the HFEA so they can consider an application from couples such as us.

REPORTER: Paul McLernan from Scotland he asks: "How do you think your child will feel when he/she finds out he was not brought into the world because he/she was wanted for him/herself, but because you wanted him/her to be born to act as a token/reminder/effigy of another child you've lost?

LOUISE: Him/her, he hasn't got the gist of the story yet.

ALAN: Like the previous Mitchie's opinion, this is another opinion that we have to respect and it's an opinion this chap holds, but there are several inaccuracies within the e-mail.

LOUISE: We wouldn't be going through all this if he/she wasn't wanted.

ALAN: Paul has missed the thing here, we love Nicole and our boys with all our hearts. We want a child, we want another child to love equally with her brothers and her sister.

LOUISE: It says here to remind/effigy of another child who you lost. I just need to look at another blonde haired girl that's three and a half and she reminds me of Nicole.

ALAN: We're fairly certain that'll go on for the rest of our lives. Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to meet a lovely couple who'd lost their son, five-years-old, 30 years ago and it was as raw last Wednesday as it had been the day they lost him. And we fully expected to feel like this. When you lose a child, the best you can hope for is to be able to handle it a wee bit better, live with it a wee bit better each day, that's the best you can expect. Paul here he obviously thinks what we're looking for is to replace Nicole and we hope we've made our position clear on that issue.

REPORTER: We'll have a couple of the views of some of our users. Paul Lombardo from the USA: "Mr and Mrs Masterton, let me start by saying how heartbroken I am at your loss. It's never easy to lose a loved one, but such a precious gift from God is harder to lose. I have been following your story on the BBC internet, radio broadcasts and television and would like to add my voice to what must be a loud chorus by now. Please leave the decision as to the sex of your child to God. I encourage you to pray to the Holy Spirit and ask him for the wisdom to allow his will to work in your life. My wife and I were faced with a difficult decision and 'thy will be done' became a mantra over the course of this situation. Please know that there are many praying for you and your family, be encouraged the Lord also walks with you through your time of need. All you need to do is trust in him. God bless you and your family." Any response to that?

LOUISE: I do believe in God and I believe God has given me the strength to cope with all this and go on with life without Nicole, but I also believe that if it's meant to be that we have another wee girl it's God's will.

REPORTER: It's a statement from Arthur Robey from Australia and he says: "I still have to be convinced that an undesigned baby is superior to a designed one."

This is back to the idea of being able to design your child if you like with all that that entails?

ALAN: I think again that's Arthur's view, but I think if you made this proclamation in this country you would be inundated with letters and comments from ethicists and the church.

REPORTER: There are two key areas where you've had to comment, one is the area of the designer baby and the other is the psychological need aspect as well, isn't it?

ALAN: The psychological aspect is one that doesn't bode very well with us, sits uncomfortably. You can have breast augmentation, for instance, and there's something like 80,000 breast augmentation operations done per year in the UK on the NHS, costing around 3,500, to 4,000 at a time and this is perfectly ethical, perfectly moral, perfectly acceptable and is fundamentally a cosmetic issue.

LOUISE: They're getting them done for psychological reasons.

ALAN: The reason for carrying out these type of operations is psychological and so one of the points we raised in our application, we've discussed is if such operations are viewed as fitting a medical criteria, the psychological reason for a breast augmentation being a suitable criteria to qualify as medical, surely our position is not as if - equally as suitable, we feel even more suitably qualifies for a medical qualification than a breast augmentation operation.

REPORTER: We'll finish with a couple more messages from e-mail users, one from Dr Steve Morrison, I wonder if he's a doctor of medicine, he says: "Go for a girl." One from Joe from the UK: "Let them do what they want, at the end of the day if something goes wrong then they have to deal with it, not us." Jack B.Pratt from the USA says: "We should always be able to use our scientific capability, we should all strive to improve our scientific capability, mankind should always move forward."

ALAN: That's an adaptation of the dinosaur theory, the dinosaurs didn't develop and so they no longer exist. If we're going to continue to develop these emerging technologies, we must utilise them for the best possible benefits of mankind.

REPORTER: One from David from England: "I just want to say good luck to this couple, the field of science is growing at an incredible rate and if this choice is open to people, they should have a right to take it."

ALAN: Our point exactly.

REPORTER: One from Steve Smith from the UK: "Well done, there'll be many people who claim you're acting in a ghoulish fashion, I disagree. Too many do-gooders have stuck their noses in too many other people's business for far too long. Do what you really feel is right ethically and morally. Medical science has evolved, it assists in the birth of many a healthy child, why shouldn't we be able to use this science to choose the gender, or more importantly to be able to screen out potentially fatal diseases and debilitating handicaps."

ALAN: Again we totally agree. Both Louise and I are Christians, if we didn't think what we were doing was ethically and morally correct.

LOUISE: We wouldn't be doing it.

ALAN: We can sleep easy in our beds each night knowing we're doing the best we can for our family.

REPORTER: Obviously we've had this statement from the HFEA, you've said you'll fight on, take your battle to the courts. Do you see any way in which the HFEA can change their mind now, do you think things are set against you?

ALAN:They've become so entrenched, we must have covered probably 40 or 50 shows now in the last three weeks, television and radio, and on most of these shows the HFEA have been invited along to present their case and to my knowledge they've declined the opportunity to send a representative along and represent the HFEA stance. They produce this false statement which they've stuck to since day one.

REPORTER: Do you feel they're hiding behind the procedures to an extent?

ALAN: The danger is you get paranoid and grassy knoll theories spring up all around. One would think if they were a transparent open authority they would come forth and say, "Look this is the reasons why we've made this decision and these are the authority rules that we use, these are the administering law principles we've adopted in this circumstances and there it is." To date I've seen no representative of the HFEA has ever bothered to present the HFEA case, never go along to defend this false statement they produce at these shows.

REPORTER: This may not be a question you're even considering, but at what point would you give up the fight?

ALAN: When we die.

LOUISE: I'm 42, that's why we're trying for this now, I don't have biologically the time, otherwise we'd probably have waited a few years. But if my biological clock runs out, we would want to do this for other people who God forbid but find themselves where we're sitting now.

REPORTER: Your saying it's a life or death struggle?

ALAN: It's a struggle we believe in passionately, it goes to the core of what we're about. We feel so strongly about this that if through the paragons of the HFEA they manage to run this suit long enough it becomes a non-issue for us, i.e. Louise gets to the situation where the biological clock has done us out of time, we'll continue the struggle to have the ability, or to gain access for couples in the future who've suffered the horrendous tragedy we've suffered.

LOUISE: It would make me feel that something positive had come out of a tragedy if we could get this rule change.

ALAN: There may be other couples in the future that maybe are not so up on the administrative law rules of natural justice and can spot as easily as I could that things weren't quite as they should have been when our case was mishandled by the HFEA. Lots of people tend to accept these things are given to a government authority and government authority would never dream of circumventing an application and we've proved otherwise. For that purpose alone we'll continue this until it's run its course, it may well be ultimately the thing gets thrown out and goes nowhere, until that conclusion we'll stick with this.

REPORTER: You're going to keep going, if the court case was to fail?

ALAN: Absolutely, we'll make this one of our life's jobs.

REPORTER: Alan and Louise Masterton thank you for taking part in this BBC News Online Scotland webcast.

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18 Oct 00 | Scotland
Couple angered by baby ruling
04 Oct 00 | Scotland
Baby sex choice battle
13 Mar 00 | Scotland
Baby sex choice couple speak out
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