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Lawmakers propose birth defect interdiction

2015-03-16 09:10 Global Times Web Editor: Li Yan

Several lawmakers have suggested that China should ramp up financial support for prenatal diagnosis to decrease the number of children born with birth defects in China, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Saturday. [Special coverage]

"It costs an average of 1.09 million yuan ($174,163) to treat and raise babies with severe birth defects during the course of their lifetime," Lei Dongzhu, a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC) and vice-president of the No.1 People's Hospital of Chenzhou in Hunan Province, was quoted as saying by Xinhua.

A high birth rate among babies with birth defects could create a heavy financial burden for families and impact "population quality," said Lei.

Lei proposed to include prenatal checks for high-risk birth defects in medical insurance policies, and provide a choice for parents whether they wish to terminate the pregnancy of fetuses with severe conditions, the report said.

"There are 900,000 newborns with birth defects every year in China. These children suffer greatly and also bring economic burdens to families and society alike," Hu Meiying, an NPC deputy and head nurse at the Children's Hospital of Jiangxi Province, told the Global Times.

The birth defect rate in China is 5.6 percent, according to a report by the dysfunctional Ministry of Health in 2012.

"The government should build and improve the system to provide free pre-pregnancy examinations, interdiction tools during the pregnancy, and screening of newborns," Hu said.

More funds should be set aside for the prevention and treatment of babies with birth defects, especially for central and western regions, said Hu, adding that the responsibility should be shared by the central and local governments.

"In fact, 90 percent of parents choose to terminate pregnancy once they find their baby have defects," an obstetrician surnamed Li in Baotou, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region told the Global Times.

Doctors' primary role is to perform the examinations and deliver the results. It is the role of the parents to decide on treatment, which depends on families' economic capabilities, said Li.

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