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Premarital Test Revised
From January 1 next year, the premarital medical examination for couples will see a major departure from norm when a revised national regulation, issued by the Ministry of Health, takes effect.

According to the amended regulation, doctors will only give suggestions rather than directly endorsing or vetoing a marriage owing to the couple's health problems.

The new rule also provides detailed guidelines on equipment, service, and management of medical facilities providing the premarital test.

In China, couples hoping to marry must undergo a physical check before being granted a marriage certificate.

"The medical check is the sole criterion for finding whether the couple is healthy or otherwise. We only give licenses to couples who pass the check," said Zhou Jixiang of the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau which is in charge of issuing marriage certificates.

The revised rule applies a more humane approach towards people, especially those with infectious diseases, who can't marry under present rules, said experts.

Previously, doctors gave an authoritative conclusion by approving or vetoing marriage on the basis of the medical check. Those with serious infectious diseases, like AIDS and syphilis, were considered "unqualified" for marriage.

The new rule abolished the curbs on infectious diseases.

Only couples with kinship, serious mental retardation or mental diseases, which can be passed on, will be told not to marry, while those with serious genetic diseases, organ diseases or other maladies will be asked to avoid having kids.

For infectious diseases, doctors will suggest delaying marriage if the person is in an infective stage. Otherwise, they will suggest that the couple take necessary preventive measures and treatment.

This humane approach is already drawing praise.

"The doctor has a duty to inform the couple about any disease and give professional aid," said Duan Tao, deputy director of Shanghai No.1 Maternity and Infant Hospital. "That means people with infectious diseases also have the right to marry. It reflects sympathy on society's part." Zhang Li, a 28-year-old woman awaiting a premarital check, agreed. "After all, the couple themselves have the final say on their marriage."

(eastday.com November 27, 2002)

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