The Propriety Or Otherwise Of Preconditional Ecumenical Prenuptial Medical Tests.
In summary, uninvestigated or poorly-investigated wedlocks may produce stresses arising from:
1. Inability to bear children,
2. Production of abnormal children,
3. Revelation of physical diseases bereft of cure,
4. Revelation of mental disease in either spouse,
5. Revelation of premarital or extramarital issues,
6. Revelation of other forms of adultery.
Numbers 5 and 6 above are however merely consequent upon the earlier four and I should not dwell much on them here.
While it may appear convenient for casual observers to pick holes in the tendency of the clergy to probe the medical histories of intending marriage contractants, such enquiries are essential considering:
1. The propensities of persons for falsehood and concealment,
2. The tendencies of to-be-weds to be 'blinded by love',
3. The consequences of stresses that may be brought to bear on the marriage when revelations may come too late,
4. The medical and financial burden on the family and the psychological toll.
The innocent offspring also bears his share of these stresses!
I suppose instead of picking faults with this noble move by the clergy, we should be asking for an extension of these procedures to include a comprehensive medical history probing extensively into the progeny of bride and groom to exclude most if not all dangerous inheritable traits that may be lurking within the genes of the lovebirds.
Such medical scrutiny should also include a thorough physical and mental examination to probe the bodies and minds of both parties.
I do not think there are lab tests yet designed to detect viral warts, penile or vulval keloids or other hidden masses....neoplastic or otherwise....in sexually obscure places!
Prenuptial lab tests should go beyond Haemoglobin genotype, or screening for Hepatitis and HIV! Sexually transmissible diseases of immense consequences go beyond the latter two...far more!
How about gonorrhoea? Or countless previous abortions? Or mumps?
Poorly-treated gonorrhoea causes testicular damage in males. It causes uterine synechiae and tubal blockade in females. Both produce infertility. So, how about Seminal Fluid Analysis including a microscopy, culture and sensitivity? Or a hormone profile? Profuse or careless use of hormonal contraceptives may derrange the hormone profile. So do diseases of the gonads!
Does the woman even have a womb? Has she had her womb surgically removed after damage from abortions or road accidents?
Some maternal diseases sexual or otherwse, are recognised in Neonatology as precursors for severe congenital deformities in the newborn.
Mnemonically grouped as TORCHES, they include:
Toxoplasmosis....causing pediatric convulsions,
Rubella....causing physical deformities,
Cytomegalic Inclusion Viral disease...also causing deformities,
Syphilis....causing notched teeth among other abnormalities in the offspring of the union and even severe heart, blood vessel and brain complications in adult sufferers!
Who says only abnormalities of body structure and function in one spouse can mess up the life of the partner?
How about derrangement of the mind?
Accordingly, the medical community and the clergy need to come together as doctors assist in designing comprehensive forms for churches. These forms should include questions probing the family histories of parties intending to wed. It would also include sections to be filled by doctors on physical and mental examinations and lab tests!
Informed consents must be obtained from tested parties to make such medical information available to their Pastors...preconditional to conducting weddings for them.
Or at the very least, such persons must bear notes from their doctors stating that they have been medically screened and found to be free of any disease of the body and the mind....
And that there is no family history of signifiicance....
Above all, there is the need to be truthful in these matters...
Better to say the truth now than be found out later....
However bad your history is, it is better to tell your spouse directly than for him or her to find out from outsiders!
Better than ordering HSGs, MRIs and CT scans...
...all because of marriage?
Dr Tosin Akindele is a medical practitioner and public affairs analyst.