Toronto

Baby-photo ultrasound clinics totally unregulated in Ontario

News that the Babyview Imaging Centre in Pickering, Ont. gave dozens of women identical ultrasound photos reveals how clinics are operating with zero oversight.

'You could just go and buy yourself a scanner right now and open up a shop'

Professionals who use ultrasound for medical purposes say "entertainment ultrasound" is completely unregulated. The Babyview 3D Prenatal Imaging clinic in Pickering, Ont. gave copies of the same fetal ultrasound image to at least 20 pregnant women. (Facebook)

News that an ultrasound clinic near Toronto gave at least 20 pregnant women identical images of a generic fetus reveals how such clinics are operating with zero oversight in most of Canada.

Professional sonographers who use ultrasound for medical purposes are raising concern about the growing and completely unregulated practice of what they call "entertainment ultrasound."   

Nothing is stopping anyone from using an ultrasound machine to generate and sell 3D photos and videos of unborn babies in the womb, said Greg Toffner, president and CEO of the Ontario Association of Medical Radiation Sciences. 

'You could just go and buy yourself a scanner right now and open up a shop if you wanted," Toffner said Thursday in an interview with CBC News. "I've even heard of people running scanners from their garage. It's scary stuff."  

More than 20 expectant parents who paid Babyview 3D Prenatal Imaging in Pickering, Ont. more than $100 each for images of their unborn children say the clinic instead gave them stock photos of a fetus. They discovered this after expectant moms noticed other soon-to-be parents posting images identical to their own. 

In a statement on its Facebook page, Babyview blames a "technical glitch." It is offering the clients a refund or a free re-scan. 

"These clinics fall outside of the scope of the health care system because they're not there for health," added Toffner. They're there purely for entertainment purposes." 

Babyview 3D Prenatal Imaging says a "technical glitch" is responsible for more than 20 expectant parents receiving what appeared to be stock photos of fetuses from the clinic's website instead of images of their unborn children.

Health Canada, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario all oppose the use of 3D or 4D fetal ultrasound for keepsake videos and portraits. 

"The use of ultrasound for entertainment or fetal gender determination purposes is inappropriate," says the College of Physicians and Surgeons policy statement, effective since 2010. 

"We have a real concern for the unregulated use of ultrasound, especially for non-diagnostic and non-therapeutic uses, such as baby images," said Johan Rudnick, the CEO of Sonography Canada, the national body that issues credentials to diagnostic medical sonographers, more commonly known as ultrasound technologists.

Rudnick said his organization wants provincial governments to rein in non-medical ultrasound. "The lack of any restrictions on the non-medical use of ultrasound in a commercial setting is justifiably worrisome," he said in an email to CBC News. 

Rudnick would not reveal whether Babyview's ultrasound technologist and co-owner, Mohsina Adeel Mir, is a member of Sonography Canada. 

CBC News has confirmed that Mir has a certification from the US-based  American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography. It gives credentials to ultrasound technicians who pass its examinations but does not govern their practice. 

Only Quebec regulates medical ultrasound

France Gélinas, health critic for Ontario's opposition NDP, wants the province's Liberal government to impose rules on the ultrasound clinics that offer fetal photos and videos. 

"People assume that those clinics are part of the health care system, that they have oversight and accountability. This is not the fact," Gélinas said in an interview with CBC News.   

A spokesperson for Health Minister Eric Hoskins says Ontario is looking into whether regulating medical  sonographers would impact the clinics that provide fetal keepsake images. 

"Entertainment ultrasounds, like the services provided by BabyView, are not the same as diagnostic ultrasounds," said Joshua McLarnon. 

Ontario's health professions advisory council recommended regulating the medical ultrasound field in 2014, but the government is yet to act.

Quebec is the only province that regulates medical sonographers.

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