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Premarital Screening Programs in the Middle East, from a Human Right's Perspective

Premarital screening aims primarily to give couples (who are planning to get married soon) medical consultation on the odds of transmitting genetic diseases to their children. Given that consanguineous marriages are so common in the Middle East and children of consanguineous marriages are at increased risk for genetic diseases and congenital malformations, and due to its impacts on public health, it is important to provide health education on consanguinity at individual, family and community levels delivered mainly by the state’s primary health care staff. It is also important to provide pre-marriage and pre-pregnancy genetic diagnosis and counseling. The Availability, Accessibility, Acceptability and Quality (AAAQ framework) of specialized facilities/centers for pre-marriage and pre-pregnancy genetic counseling and testing services should be sufficient to implement the Right to Health in this regard. And human rights principles shall guide the whole aspects of premarital screening program to include planning, design, execution, monitoring and evaluation. Among those principles are also non-discrimination, participation, inclusion, and accountability. All parties should be involved in the premarital screening program- politicians (to enact laws), religious leaders (to reconsider abortion in case the fetus afflicted with grave congenital malformation), employees in primary health care, researchers, doctors, geneticists, disease prevention and control and social services, subject-matter experts, mother and child health care, media, and activists in NGOs and voluntary organizations.


Ammar Alhosain

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