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HC notice over health policies for babies with birth defects

Posted on Aug 27 2014 | IANS

New Delhi, Aug 27 : The Delhi High Court Wednesday issued notice to the central government on a petition seeking that the necessary health policies by insurance companies or health schemes by government bodies be made available for babies with birth defects.

A division bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice R.S. Endlaw sought the Centre's response by Nov 12 on a plea filed by Sanjay Kulshrestha.

Kulshrestha, a paediatric surgeon, also sought some guidelines for management of babies having birth defects and congenital diseases in order to reduce the high neonatal mortality rate in India.

The plea said it has been observed that in cases of newborns and foetuses having some congenital anomalies or birth defects, various health insurance companies and government organisations were making clear-cut discriminations.

"Almost all insurance companies have not extended any medical insurance facility or policy for treatment of various newborn diseases, including birth defects during or after pregnancy," it said.

The plea said the discrimination by various insurance agencies indirectly encourages parents to opt for abortion in case some birth defect is detected during pregnancy.

Aborting foetuses because they may be disabled sends an implicit message of rejection to people with disabilities as if they are no more required in this world and they have no right to live, though this is not true in 80 percent of cases as babies lead a completely normal life after operation, the plea said.

"However, due to unavailability of treatment, lots of foetuses are aborted in India even for minor defects which are easily correctable after delivery," it said.

The plea sought direction to the government to ensure universal health insurance policies for medical and surgical diseases for foetuses, newborns and children during pregnancy and after delivery.

It said that around four percent of newborns have some major congenital anomalies (approximately five lakh babies per year) and account for 8-15 per cent of pre-natal deaths and 13-16 percent neonatal deaths in India.

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