The mandatory pre-marital medical check-up being proposed in Qatar since 2007 will be officially launched on December 13, Media and Communication department director of Supreme Council of Health, Jassim Fakhroo, said yesterday.
A media campaign aimed at creating awareness on the process among residents, especially would-be couples, begins today.
The launch of the medical check-up, sponsored by Qatar Petroleum and Qtel, was initially scheduled for September 2007, but was delayed due to some technical reasons.
The compulsory pre-marriage check-up will test couples for infectious diseases like HIV, hepatitis and genetic and hereditary ailments to prevent them from giving birth to children with complicated diseases, deformities or abnormalities.
Pre-marital medical screening is a religious and civilised requirement which has been endorsed by the Arab League with some Arab countries, including Qatar, passing laws and regulations on the testing.
In 2006, HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani had passed instructions to issue the Family Law No. 22 for 2006, which stipulates – in its Article No. 18 – mandatory pre-marital screening for all, with the aim of maintaining better health for tomorrow’s generations, and building up the society of health and wellness.
An Emiri decree was issued on June 29, 2006 enforcing the provisions of the Family Law, and Article 18, chapter three of the decree stipulates that a separate medical certificate shall be provided by the competent authorities to each one of the couple concerned before certifying the marriage contract.
However, while maintaining the confidentiality of the test results, the pre-marital committee would not stop couples from getting married in case of negative results.
According to documents made available to mediapersons by the SCH officials yesterday, in the Arab world – including Qatar – there are certain prevalent genetic diseases, which are hereditary anemias (sickle cell anemia and thalassemia), spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), inherited metabolic diseases in general particularly homocystinuria in Qatar and cystic fibrosis.
In the report, professor of Paediatrics and Genetics at Well Cornell Medical College-New York and Qatar and an adviser to SCH professor Ahmad Teebi said all the diseases were transmitted through autosomal recessive genes that are driven primarily by cousin marriages.
“The married couples are usually cousins or distant relatives, that is why such diseases spread in most Arab countries due to the prevalence of cousin marriages. However, marriage of non-related couples does not guarantee the birth of healthy children free from genetic disorders and birth defects,” he explained.
Professor Teebi said pre-marital screening was highly important regardless of the degree of relationship between the couples (future husband and wife).
“In other words, pre-marital screening is equally important for relatives and non-relatives,” he added.
He stressed that pre-marital screening for both man and woman will reveal if one or both are carriers for the same disorder tested.
“The advice is to avoid the marriage if both are carriers as their chance to have children affected with the disease is 25% or one in four in each pregnancy,” he cautioned.
“We all know that the person carrying the hereditary disease is not a sick person or looking abnormal. On the contrary, he/she is fit but only carrying disease genes that can be transmitted to his/her children,” professor Teebi explained.
He mentioned that on average each human carries around three deleterious recessive genes. If the same gene is shared with a partner the chance of having affected children will be high. When one of the couple is a disease carrier, and the other is not, there will be no problem.
Examination clinics’ schedule
A number of health centres in the country have been designated as pre-marital examination clinics.
The health centres will operate according to the following time schedule:
* Morning: Airport Health Centre
* Evening: Al Khor Health Centre
* Morning: Al Gharrafa Health Centre
* Evening: Airport Health Centre
* Morning: Al Rayyan Health Centre
* Evening: West Bay Health Centre
* Morning: Al Khor Health Centre
* Evening: Al Rayyan Health Centre
* Morning: West Bay Health Centre
Clinic working hours:
Morning: 8:00 – 1:00pm
Evening: 5:00pm – 10:00pm