A draft revision to the rule on the so-called new type of prenatal diagnosis, adopted by the executive board of the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology earlier this month, is expected to substantially increase the number of medical facilities authorized to conduct blood tests on pregnant women to detect possible chromosome abnormalities such as Down syndrome in their fetuses. Officials of the medical organization say the measure is being considered to address the problematic situation in which such tests are performed by large numbers of unauthorized clinics without giving the pregnant women and their families adequate counseling to help them make the tough choices in response to the test results.

What the officials call the “worst” situation over uncontrolled prenatal diagnosis must be addressed. However, concerns have been raised about whether the quality of the counseling and other support provided to women taking the tests and their families can be secured if the tests are made available at a wider range of medical institutions, including small clinics, by easing the requirements for authorized facilities. Some experts also worry that making them more widely available may lead pregnant women to think that everybody takes the tests, whose results may force difficult choices on them.

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