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Couples encouraged to get check-ups
( 2003-09-04 07:15) (China Daily)

The Ministry of Health said yesterday it would continue to encourage couples to get medical check-ups before tying the knot, despite the introduction of a new legislation meaning this is no longer compulsory.

The new regulation, which aims to simplify the registration process, has been approved by the State Council and will come into effect on October 1.

Couples were previously required to undergo compulsory medicals if they wanted to get married.

The move is socially progressive and shows improved respect for human rights given that the new regulation has turned the mandatory pre-marital physical check-up into a voluntary action, the spokesman said.

A statement issued by the ministry on Tuesday said that a pre-marital physical check-up would still be helpful to a couple's future family life in order to detect severe hereditary diseases, communicable diseases and mental illness.

Medical departments giving such check-ups should provide high quality and personalized services and should respect people's privacy, the statement said.

Wu Changzhen, a marriage law expert with the China University of Politics and Law, said that cancellation of mandatory physical check-ups does not mean that premarital physical check-ups have been banned.

"I encourage couples to take a physical check-up before marriage because it helps to guarantee a healthier birth in the future,'' Wu said.

A person should know about any health problems that their partner has before they start a family, she said.

A leading professor of marriage and family law claimed that there were no legal ground for the cancellation of pre-marriage physical check-ups.

"The so-called cancellation of the check-ups is a kind of misunderstanding of the newly enacted regulation on marriage registration,'' said Yang Dawen, a professor with the Law School of Renmin University of China.

The regulation does not stipulate whether the couples should undergo physical check-ups before marriage registration.

But the result of the check-ups is not listed as required documents that couples should present to marriage registrar to get the certificate.

Yang said the absence of a clear stipulation in the regulation does not mean the check-ups will be cancelled.

The Law on Mother and Infant Healthcare stipulate that couples should undergo physical check-ups before getting married.

Yang said the law, which was passed by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in 1994, is superior to the regulation and enforcement of this law should prevail.

The law says that the governments of provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities should work out their own regulations on pre-marriage physical check-ups.

The Beijing Health Bureau recently said that it will enforce the law on mother and infant healthcare until it is amended or abolished.

But it is known that some hospitals use the check-up service to make money by usually providing nominal and less than reliable test results.

He Peng, a 30-year-old Beijing resident who got married last year, said physical check-ups before marriage are nothing but a waste time.

"I waited in a long queue to get the check-up, spending almost an entire day to get a stamp on a medical document,'' he said.

It seems many people agree with He's viewpoint as many hospitals designated to conduct pre-marital checkup have seen fewer clients than several months ago.

An anonymous doctor with the Beijing Gynaecology and Obstetrics Hospital told China Daily yesterday that the number of couples getting check-up there had rapidly reduced last month, less than half number in July.

Many couples who are preparing to tie the knot admitted that they have postponed their marriage date till October 1 so they do not have to go through with the compulsory check-up.

The new regulation stipulates that people with either serious dementia or aggressive psychosis cannot get married.

However, both diseases can be easily recognized without any medical checkups, said Zhang Mingliang, director of the Department of Construction of Basic Level Government and Communities under the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

Generally speaking, there is no medical reason that should disqualify people from marriage, even they are HIV/AIDS carriers, Zhang said.

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