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2012年9月11日 (火)

出生前診断 「命の選別」助長せぬルールを

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Sep. 11, 2012)
Medical community must ensure 'embryo screening' doesn't occur
出生前診断 「命の選別」助長せぬルールを(9月9日付・読売社説)

Trial implementation of a new method of prenatal diagnosis that can determine with near certainty whether a fetus will develop Down syndrome is set to begin shortly at about 10 medical institutions nationwide.

The medical community must avoid a situation whereby the latest technology in reproductive medicine encourages "embryo screening."

We urge the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology and other organizations to quickly work out guidelines for using the examination so it is not used casually.

Maternal serum marker screenings--another form of prenatal diagnosis--have become commonly used. These tests check a pregnant woman's blood for certain chromosome abnormalities in the fetus.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry issued an opinion saying serum marker screenings should "not be recommended by medical doctors." However, the opinion is nonbinding and nearly 20,000 such tests are conducted each year.

Reportedly, not a few expectant mothers, shocked at the possibility of having a baby with a chromosome abnormality, choose abortion after receiving positive test results.


Situation worrisome

Compared with the conventional methods for predicting Down syndrome that only offer a likelihood, test results using the new method are nearly certain.

We believe it is quite natural for medical specialists to harbor concerns that the new test could encourage the casual use of abortion.

In other countries where the method has already been introduced, it has been met with opposition from groups of concerned families and other organizations, who have released statements opposing it on the grounds that it could cause disabled people to be rejected by society. A case on the issue has even been brought before the International Criminal Court.

Behind the increased use of prenatal diagnoses lies the reality of the tendency of modern women to have children later in life, which generally increases the risk of congenital disease.

Doctors may find it difficult to refuse requests from pregnant women wanting to know if their babies have a genetic disease.


Proper education crucial

It is important that doctors, when asked to conduct prenatal diagnoses, give expectant mothers sufficient knowledge about Down syndrome.

While people with Down syndrome often experience mental disabilities and cardiac disorders, many of them are able to lead normal lives thanks to improved medical and educational support systems.

Improved counseling services are also needed to address the anxieties of pregnant women. The nation needs more such specialists than the current 270.

Meanwhile, experts in the United States succeeded in June in decoding a fetus' genetic information using only a sample of the mother's blood and the father's saliva.

When put into practical use, this method is expected to make it possible to check for most genetic diseases at the fetal stage.

Such a development would pose an even more difficult challenge for those working on the medical front lines. The new test for Down syndrome is merely a sign of what could come in this issue.

The reality is that rules and regulations on the use of prenatal diagnosis have not caught up with technological innovations in reproductive medicine. In drawing up relevant guidelines, we urge those involved to also take a hard look at future technological progress.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 9, 2012)
(2012年9月9日01時26分  読売新聞)


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« 日露首脳会談 領土交渉への土俵を固めよ | トップページ | 育毛シャンプーの正しい選択肢はノンシリコンシャンプーだったのです(汗); »