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In a letter that has stunned many leading fertility specialists, the acting head of their professional society's ethics committee says it is sometimes acceptable for couples to choose the sex of their children by selecting either male or female embryos and discarding the rest.

The group, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, establishes positions on ethical issues, and most clinics say they abide by them.

One fertility specialist, Dr. Norbert Gleicher, whose group has nine centers and who had asked for the opinion, was quick to act it.

''We will offer it immediately,'' Dr. Gleicher said of the sex-selection method. ''Frankly, we have a list of patients who asked for it.''

Couples would have to undergo in vitro fertilization, and then their embryos would be examined in the first few days when they consisted of just eight cells.

Dr. Gleicher is chairman of the board of the Center for Human Reproduction, which has five fertility centers in the Chicago area and four others in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The acting chairman of the ethics committee at the reproductive medicine society, John...