Is Obiano right to make genotype test compulsory for intending couples?

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Prof Isaac Adewole, Minister of Health
Prof Isaac Adewole, Minister of Health

Medical experts, lawyers and religious leaders comment on Governor Willie Obiano’s plan to implement a 14-year-old Anambra State’s law, which makes genotype test compulsory for intending couples

The state government’s plan, if it is really true, is unfortunate. Indeed, I sympathise with the government for its poor knowledge of the best management practice of sickle cell condition.

The government must be educated that there is a more effective way of addressing its concern. And that is improving advocacy and public health enlightenment on the importance of genotype in the determination of sickle cell disorder.

Any effort by the government to outlaw marriages on the account of couples not knowing their genotypes would have negative consequences.

It would not only be an affront to the concerned citizens’ fundamental rights, but it would also be an unnecessary exercise of state power. Rather than indulging in rights violation occasioned by a faulty appreciation of the real challenges and how to address them, the state government should invest in education and public health enlightenment. The state should use the electronic and print media to sensitive the public on the underlining issues. The state government should also devote its resources to strengthening its health system. Why can’t the state government also invest in sickle cell disorder researches? These, as far as I am concerned, are where the government should come in.

Of course, the law is good. Knowledge has made it clear to us that we need to undergo the test before we go into marriage. Islam supports it because you are not expected to give birth to a child that would live in pains throughout his lifetime.

Islam allows you to seek knowledge about who you want to marry. You must not marry somebody you do not know.

It is good that the state government is thinking in this direction. There may be some unintended effects. Yet, that does not reduce the fact that it is a good law.

By now, we should have eliminated sickle cell disease in Africa if we were serious. Sickle cell disease can easily be prevented if AS and AS carriers do not marry. Also, if an SS marries an SS, it means all their children would be SS. We know this. So, it is a disease that could be totally prevented.

The decision of the Anambra State Government to prevent AS from marrying AS sounds reasonable, though many people may argue that it is a violation of the fundamental human rights of those affected by the law.

When you talk about rights, we should not forget the rights of the innocent children that are coming to suffer pain, agony and sorrow throughout their lifetimes. If the government decides to protect the rights of the unborn children, I think it is a reasonable decision.

I remember a young lady, a ‘sickler,’ who cursed her parents in their presence every time she suffered health crisis. The young lady died of sickle cell crisis a few days to her graduation from the university. That was when she was 23.

The law was passed before the current administration. That Governor Willie Obiano wants to implement it is good for the people and the unborn children that would escape sickle cell disease. There is only one way to prevent sickle cell disease. That is by preventing people with sickle cell traits from coming together for the purpose of having children. There have been many advocacies over the years. But they have not achieved any significant result. I wish the law could be nationalised.

I am in support of the order by governor. In my opinion, it is a step in the right direction. It is part of the state government’s determination to eradicate sickle cell disease. This will discourage people whose genotypes are not compatible from courting. In the area of awareness programmes, government and non-governmental organisations have not achieved much, hence the need to use the carrot-stick approach.

I totally agree with this logic. Since government does not treat sickle cell patients for free or even subsidise the cost of medication, it should do what it could to help reduce the challenge.

The treatment of sickle cell disease is quite expensive. It requires a multi-specialist team, including professionals such as haematologists, paediatricians and orthopaedic surgeons to handle. And these services are out of the reach of the common man. So, it is cheaper and better to prevent than to manage sickle cell disease.

Every law has to go through the normal legislative process. It the law was duly passed it means the government must have noticed a trend before it passed it. You don’t just pass a law because you are government. Every law goes through a regimented process.

One should not say because a particular policy does not sound well, it should not stand. It does not happen that way. Once a law passes through the normal process, everybody, including the church, must obey it. If the church decides to go against it, it should face the repercussion.

It does not matter what a particular individual feels about the law.

If a law constitutes an infringement of the provisions of the constitution, such a law, to the extent of its inconsistency, would be void. I have not had the benefit of going through the original law, hence I would not be able to say whether it violates constitutional provisions or not.

But if you are subjected to any test with the intention of forestalling sickle cell, such a law is one that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic dispensation.

The law is designed to protect the safety of individuals. Fundamental human rights are not absolute. So, if a law is made to promote public safety and order, it could be reasonably justified. All depends on the provisions of the law. However, on its face value, it seems to have come under exceptions to fundamental human rights violation. I think the decision by the Anambra State Government to enforce the law is alright.

It is a violent and blatant violation of the rights to privacy, family life and correspondences. No one or government has the right to access a citizen’s genotype, particularly in a politically and ethno-religiously charged country like Nigeria where such personal information could be misused and abused for reasons ranging from lack of nobility to lack of patriotism. I am totally against it. Citizens should challenge the law individually or in a class action.

It makes no difference whether the state government intends to use the law to prevent sickle cell disorder. Government could only embark on counselling and orientating couples about the dangers of sickle cell. We are not in autocratic China where government decides people’s reproductive statuses and family lives. Ours is a constitutional democracy imbued with the rule of law and freedoms. We do not need an intrusive and abusive law.  (Punch)

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