Courtesy Daily Times: [ Copied from Mansoor ]
Save children before they are born
By Rana Kashif
LAHORE: Prospective couples’ medical examinations — costing a few thousand rupees — before they get married can save innocent children from leading a crippled life because of diseases like thallesaemia, HIV/ADIS and hepatitis. Blood tests before their marriage can also help prevent one spouse from being infected by the other, who could be a carrier of a virus. .
The father of a girl suffering from thallesaemia said his daughter would have to undergo blood transfusions for the rest of her life. He said he was told his daughter was suffering from an incurable blood disorder, thalassaemia major, when she was born. “My daughter will now have to pay the price for me and my wife’s negligence because we did not go through medical tests before her birth”, he said, adding that he and his wife were carriers of thallesaemia minor. “Had we known we were carriers of the disease, the innocent child could have been saved from leading a miserable life”, he said, adding he and his wife had decided against having any more children since they had found out that they were carriers.
Iftikhar Hussain told Daily Times that his 12-year-old son had been suffering from severe liver problems since his birth, and his wife was also suffering from a similar infection. Twenty-five percent children of parents with thallesaemia minor are born with thallesaemia major and fifty percent with thallesaemia minor while the remaining are healthy.
People however pay no attention to medical tests before getting married or before children’s birth, perhaps because some of them consider it an un-Islamic act or because of lack of awareness. Almost seven percent of Pakistan’s population carries genes of thallesaemia minor but such people do not need blood transfusions, whereas couples suffering from thallesaemia minor give birth to almost 4,500 children with thallesaemia minor or major every year.
Sources in the Health Department said parents with hereditary diseases like Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and hepatitis could infect children if they were suffering from the viruses, but medical tests could identify such viruses.
Dr Muhammad Rehan Sajid, a pathologist from the Aga Khan University Hospital, said medical examinations of couples, especially in case of marriage between cousins, should be compulsory, and such marriages should not take place if it was revealed in medical tests that one of the spouses was a carrier of a harmful virus.
The doctor said couples should also go through proper medical checkups before their children’s birth, and the birth of a child should be aborted if one of the spouses is suffering from a disease which could affect the child’s life.
According to fatwas, medical examinations before marriages are not an un-Islamic act and a child’s birth can be aborted in 120 days of pregnancy, the time before a foetus’s maturity, on the basis of medical reports, he said, adding that an abortion after 120 days was considered murder.
He said that people should have liver function tests, HIV tests and other blood culture tests for their own and their children’s safety. The doctor said the government should legislate on making it compulsory for people to have medical tests.
Rehan said all the tests cost around Rs 4,000; LFT Rs 700, HIV Rs 900 and blood culture Rs 700.