Premarital genetic counselling made mandatory in Iran

November 3, 2017

TEHRAN — Iran’s Welfare Organization has made premarital genetic counselling obligatory for all couples, the organization’s director told the Tehran Times on Thursday.

“With regard to the fact that some 25 to 30 thousand children are being born with congenital disabilities in the country annually we decided to make genetic counselling a mandatory requirement for couples before officiating their marriage,” Anoushirvan Mohseni-Bandpey said. 

According to the World Health Organization genetic counselling is the process through which knowledge about the genetic aspects of illnesses is shared by trained professionals with those who are at an increased risk or either having a heritable disorder or of passing it on to their unborn offspring. A genetic counsellor provides information on the inheritance of illnesses and their recurrence risks.

Premarital genetic counselling was first piloted in one or two towns in each city over the past two years and finally proposed in the cabinet and was approved by the ministers to be implemented nationwide, the official said. 

“So all couples are required to obtain a permission before getting married by filling out questionnaires designed and administered by professional healthcare providers. The whole process won’t take longer than an hour,” Mohseni-Bandpey explained. 

In case the couples are at risk they will be referred to genetic counselling services to take tests to assess any potential risks for future pregnancies if need be, he noted. 

In the pilot schemes some 25 percent of the couples were referred to the genetic counselling services of which only 5 percent were demanded to take the tests, the welfare organization director said, adding, although filling out the questionnaires are obligatory taking the further counselling services or the tests are optional.

He went on to say that “as giving birth to children with birth defects could prove costly both for parents and heath care sector we try to encourage couples to take the tests and in case they cannot afford the tests the welfare organization will cover the costs.”

“This process is not supposed to postpone the marriage and so far in association with universities of medical sciences some 90,000 couples have fill out the questionnaires over the past six months,” he added.

All couples are required to obtain a permission before getting married by filling out questionnaires designed and administered by professional healthcare providers. The whole process won’t take longer than an hour.

Users to access child adoption website nationwide 
 
The child adoption website which is currently being piloted in Tehran will be accessible for Iranian nationwide within four months, Mohseni-Bandpey said.

Currently parents in Tehran who are interested in adopting a child can refer to the website www.behzistitehran.org.ir and sign up for adoption.

“For now we are assessing the schemes shortcomings and setbacks and will soon implement it nationwide,” he said, adding, “the significance of this scheme is to clarify and ease the process of child adoption.”

Families with no children and single women over 30 are allowed to apply for adoption through the website, he added. However, since only 20 percent of these children are orphans and the rest are from dysfunctional families and the applicants outnumber the orphans it might take some time for the families to adopt.

Still applying through the website would let the applicants to explicitly specify their requirements and flow up on the process without needing to refer to the welfare organization. 

It’s up to the court and the counselors at welfare organization to conclude if a family is suitable for adoption both mentally and financially speaking, he highlighted. 

In an answer to the question about whether or not families with children can file for adoption, Mohseni-Bandpey pointed out that families with no child are prioritized over families who have children and that instead of adoption they can foster children from dysfunctional families so that can be brought up in a family. 

MQ/MG

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