The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry plans to start discussions this fall on issues related to the so-called new type of prenatal diagnosis, in which blood tests are performed on pregnant women to detect possible chromosome abnormalities such as Down syndrome in their fetuses. The move follows recent rifts between medical organizations over a plan to ease the conditions on institutions that can perform such tests, the results of which can impose on pregnant women and their families the grave choice of whether or not to give birth.

Through the discussions at the health ministry panel of experts, the government needs to take the lead in clearing any confusion over the tests. The discussions are also hoped to address the question of how society should deal with this rapidly developing medical technology that entails possible ethical questions. Concern lingers that a widespread use of the tests could lead to the exclusion of people born with chromosome abnormalities.

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