Ultrasound in rural India: a failure of the best intentions
The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act was written to prevent societally unacceptable harms including intentional sex selection. The pragmatism required to enforce this law has profound effects on the ability of rural Indians to access diagnostic ultrasonography. In so doing, it may have inadvertently placed a heavier burden on the poorest and worsened health inequity in India, creating serious ethical and justice concerns.
It is time to re-examine and update the law such that diagnostic ultrasonography is widely available in even the most peripheral primary health and community health centres. Shorter, more accessible ultrasonography training courses should be offered; collaboration between radiologists and rural practitioners and facilities should be encouraged. Finally, modern ultrasound machines can carefully record all images via a “silent observer” modality. With some modifications to previously used silent observer modalities, this technology allows both greater access and better policing of potential misuse of ultrasound technology.
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