Bhattacharyya communicates a focus on moral dilemmas and the significance of life, suffering and death in making decisions (Bhattacharyya 11)–in the early pages, she explores distributive justice: “How just is it to spend one million on a 25 week premature baby when in the same city, neighborhood, street children are suffering from malnutrition and lack of immunization?” (11). Likewise with prenatal testing, is it more just to assess and address potential risks or hindrances that could and would impact the livelihood of the child so much so that the quality of life may not be one without suffering? So much so that the baby dies upon delivery without a brain? That the baby will suffer from indescribable pain always due to sickle cell? That a predictable, preventable condition could have been assessed and diagnosed far before the potential delivery of the child? Even the risk of a child being born into a family unable to contribute the necessary time, monetary means, treatment mechanisms and around-the-clock care for a severely hindered child bears in mind what causing minimal harm is, can be and could mean under infinite circumstances. The risks associated with prenatal testing would far outweigh the potential harm it could cause; it causes far less harm than so, and the potential to prevent a lifetime of pain and suffering is worth the drawing of fluid and potential, though relatively uncommon, for a defect due to prenatal testing (Bhattacharyya 11). Bhattacharyya references stories that reference many ways of attaining a child–birth, gift, barter, adoption, etc. (Bhattacharyya 51) and while this literature is not taken as law or instruction, it sets the ground for clear acceptance of a multiplicity of acceptable family dynamics and child-attaining measures, from which I would claim support reproductive agency. Though it is said that abortion is morally condemned (Bhattacharyya 45), those in class told us that many who identify as Hindu both accept and perpetuate modern science and consequently would support the use of assistive reproductive technologies–even if drawn from this text, Gandhari goes beyond conventional methods in order to spawn children and if adapted to the times, I am sure assistive reproductive technologies would be included in her pursuit! Bhattacharyya also cites Narayanan’s interpretation of the definitive priority of children-making as contemporary grounds for Hindu individuals to seek assistive reproductive technologies (Bhattacharyya 51). She cites also Desai, who states that the myths explored could be further advanced to show the “ethical acceptability” of alternatively-conceived children for Hindus (Bhattacharyya 51). Likewise, Desai is cited in his belief that Mahabharata narratives also endorse other reproductive measures such as ovum donation and implantation of zygotes (Bhattacharyya 52). If competent care requires cultural competence (Bhattacharyya 24), then I would expect scientific literature and the empirically supported measures allowing for assistive reproductive technologies to be supported by Bhattacharyya. Competent care also involves “a triad of attributes: empathy, curiosity and respect” (Bhattacharyya 25) and if one is to adopt a competent care regime, their decisions are ones made with the well-being of others in mind and their views on reproductive technology are consistent with their intent to better the quality of life for all/humanity through research and the use of preventative measures such as those available through prenatal testing, genetic testing, vaccinations and research on by-products/elements of these procedures (discarded embryos, the fluids of impacted fetuses, terminated fetuses, even..). She cites Radhakrishnan, that “Hinduism is a conglomeration of movements, not a position; processes, not a result; growing traditions, not a fixed revelation–the traditions themselves do not acknowledge a single authoritative body or voice; they celebrate diversity”(Bhattacharyya 26). In this, “having the ability to hold a variety of perspectives is a sign of a sage”(Bhattacharyya 26)–unlike in some lifeworlds, Hindus are not bothered by the pluralism of Hinduism (26). Texts not as literal instruction that has no transience over time and Hinduism as the conglomeration that it is mark a striking difference between Hindu-esque and live-by-the-text-die-by-the-text, often archaic platforms whose spiels, especially in the South, may occupy the Facebook wastelands–as discussed in class, the stories and things encouraged or learned by these popular, influential Hindu texts is more complementary than mandating. The investigation into Hindu bioethics is/was very much novel. Christian bioethics has contributed to Bhattacharyya’s views in that she juxtaposes Hindu ideals with Jewish and Roman Catholic ideals and uses this as foreground for bouncing around the freshly cultivated Hindu bioethics debate. The view of procreation as interpreted by the Roman Catholics from the bible differs heavily from Mahabharata views on procreation as for the former, “God is unquestionably in control of the process of producing offspring” (Bhattacharyya 56)–God, even, is the solution for a barren couple’s strife. The bible also mentions women taking control of their childbearing situations (Bhattacharyya 58); perhaps those interpreting these texts for the masses in different, current times should instead look to these situations as instruction to utilize technologies and hoist all measures necessary to pursue desired life. She compares Roman Catholicism in that it insists that sexual intercourse and procreation go hand in hand inextricably (Bhattacharyya 58) which is seen throughout Donum Vitae and the insistence of all aside from homologous relations being forbidden (Bhattacharyya 59). Bhattacharya notes that the church refusing to delegate between different stages of an embryo and the fact that 1/3-1/2 of all fertilized ova never survive implantation would result in many, countless, beings being damned for eternity on the daily (Bhattacharyya 84). Dharma is a central concept to Hinduism (Bhattacharyya 63) and in its centrality, it is inherently flexible: “new twists and meaning and different times and different groups [make for a] dauntingly broad semantic range” (Bhattacharyya 63) of interpretations and living-forths of dharma. All are also subject to that of karma, which is action—all action is tied to consequences, brought to fruition in either this or another life (Bhattacharyya 65). While one should pursue assistive reproductive technologies cautiously, Hindu texts “reflect a respect for the developing fetal life and argue that it is deserving of protection from harm (Bhattacharyya 86), while they also reflect “support for utilizing various means” for producing children (Bhattacharyya 87), alas insinuating that there is “nothing inherently wrong with IVF, gamete donation and surrogacy” (Bhattacharyya 87). Another dominant worldview shows Hinduism as centric regarding “the sanctity of life of every creature, sympathy for sufferer, service without expectation, contentment and efficiency in all activities (Bhattacharyya 88) — without that which is “selfish and hedonistic” (Bhattacharyya 90). It is said that the ““right” course of action is often dependent on the particulars of a situation” (Bhattacharyya 97), further emphasizing the need to evaluate each circumstance as it is presented and in the context and particulars of the second, week, time, predicament. One can be a good Hindu through living a multitude of truths— “a commitment to the sanctity of life does not automatically prescribe only one acceptable course of action” (Bhattacharyya 107) nor does it preclude one from considering the situation at hand or what would cause the least harm overall, but acts as a guide “helpful for negotiating a path through complicated issues” (Bhattacharyya 107). As stressed before, the lack of a text as a clear guideline, belief that all are acting to cause the least amount of harm and belief in both the agency and ability of Hinduists to determine the best course of action resonate heavily in Bhattacharyya explanation and integration of Hindu beliefs/popular texts and bioethics. The use of many scientific technologies and methods in the lives of these individuals is prevalent; the integration of the learned six key elements of Hindu belief as the centrality of society, the underlying unity of all life, requirements of dharma, multivalent nature of Hindu traditions, the theory of karma, and the commitment to ahimsa collectively result in, again, the crafting of a lifeworld, mechanism of thought, way of thinking which influences all actions and would allow Hindu individuals to discern regarding the use of assistive reproductive technologies. The methodology of the two authors does not differ so much as the texts and traditions of their respective faiths; Judaism stresses the following of the Hebrew bible while focusing on kinship relations and not violating Jewish law: Broyde does not allow the traditional elements of the text or law to discount all methods of assistive reproductive technologies.
Broyde addresses reproductive technologies and the actions behind it from a point of view based on established norms based on what is appropriate ultimately based on interpretations of Genesis and established Jewish law. Some differences from Bhattacharyya lie in the focuses of the bioethics discussion– though the length of mentioned texts varies, Broyde heavily focuses on kinship and reducing problematic instances within the family ultimately focusing on parturition and birthday, labeling the gestational mother the mother (Broyde 300), nuances of maternal vs. paternal donation, declaration of Jewishness especially in instances of surrogacy, so on and so forth (300). Another focus of Broyde’s is the halakhic disputes that must be made en route to fulfilling the duty to procreate; he says, even, that to many parties cloning or reproducing without sexual relations would not fulfill the biblical obligation to “be fruitful and multiply” (Broyde 301): however, it is the belief also that the inseminator is the legal guardian of the child and in inseminating, a good deed or “mitzvah” is taking place (301). Regarding kinship, Broyde’s foci lie in the technical relations to the child and how problematic or unproblematic the conception is – this can be easily understood in the proclamation that the child carried to term by a surrogate would, in theory, be forbidden to have relations with not only the genetic mother’s family but with that of the surrogate and hold true with past explorations of how Jewish communities keep records of donors and parents alike to prevent forbidden ties as the child grows older. He finds the halakhic permissibility of reproduction via cloning “without precedent in Jewish law” (310) – this is likely due to the archaic nature of these laws and commands sought in translation. Broyde also emphasizes that the “be fruitful and multiply” obligation is solely paternal – while women are necessary participants in this in theory, “it is quite clear that the normative Jewish traditions assigns no obligation upon a woman to reproduce” (312). Spawning via clone would not result in a mitzvah (313) and the activity itself is neither good nor bad (albeit secondary activities could be bad!) as the entirety of the process can take place without violating Jewish law, namely so as it does not involve any reproductive technologies aside from implantation – Broyde cites also problematic happenings associated with artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood. If by a male, cloning happenings can even result in mitzvah, but if female, it is simply permissible, morally neutral. Broyde is comfortable explaining and exploring reproductive technologies in relation to Jewish law and would happily provide with kinship and various reproduction scenarios in abiding by Jewish law. As “the death of pre-embryos in the process of attempted implantation” (313) is not violative of Jewish law, Broyde supports many reproductive technologies as viable solutions, even though many are “less than ideal” (314), when the “ideal” method of conception is not viable (314). Moreover, the fact that these technologies oft result in one being able to fulfill the be fruitful and multiply obligation is a plus, recognizing a variety of motives for reproducing as both valid and permitting the use of reproductive technologies to attain the goal of children. Unlike some other populations, “the Jewish tradition adopts a policy of reducing the risk and minimizing the scope of potential Jewish law violations” (315) seeking not to “prohibit that which is unknown” (315) but to help allow Jewish individuals, especially those in need of assistive reproductive technologies, to utilize these measures while abiding by Jewish law to the best of their ability and circumstance. Broyde also, in conclusion, emphasizes that cloning is but an example of a facet of the conquest to conquer the earth (317), “without theological problem in the Jewish tradition” (317). I think Broyde would not find “screening to abort” halakhically permissible but sometimes the proceedings often involved in such necessary, especially in the cases of individuals who did not receive genetic screening otherwise and for whom serious disorders could be an especially pertinent risk. On preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Broyde has said, “Using PGD to create a child without a specific illness would seem to be permitted according to Jewish law at the discretion of the child’s parents. The same can be said for PGD that is designed to enhance any given characteristic in a child that increases the child’s ability or functionality, in the discretion of the parents.” (Broyde, 2004, 65) he also says, “Pre-implantation genetics diagnosis as a form of enhancement of one’s ability is much more complicated as a matter of Jewish law than as a treatment for an illness or a disease or to save the life of one’s sibling in need of a blood or bone marrow transplant.” (Broyde, 2004, 75). That being said, I think other prenatal testing i.e. amniocentesis would be evaluated on a case basis and also possibly encouraged by Broyde at times based on my findings from a prenatal testing/Jewish law search in which I found that “prenatal testing that will benefit the health of the mother or fetus is permitted (and even encouraged) in Jewish law” (NISHMAT) and while the implications of each test should be considered on an individual basis, prenatal testing is not in itself prohibited by Jewish law (NISHMAT). Further investigation confirmed my speculations: in his 2004 essays, Broyde notes, “As others have noted, amniocentesis is a genetic test, which, independent of the value of the test itself, must be evaluated in the context of the possibility of abortion. Presumably, the correctness of a fetal genetic test very much depends on what one does with the data after the test is done. Genetic tests designed to induce abortion when the ‘wrong’ genotype is found as a result of the test, would presumably violate Jewish law except in one of the few situations where abortion is permitted. On the other hand, the exact same test, when its results are used for treatment or therapy of the fetus or child, or merely to address pastoral concerns of the parents, is without any intrinsic Jewish law controversy” (Broyde 2004).
Ultimately, both parties would encourage the evaluation of circumstance and necessity when considering measures regarding all reproductive decisions but especially prenatal testing dilemmas. The each-circumstance-varies view holds true and though Broyde’s lenses are those familiar with and seeking to follow/interpret Jewish law, Bhattacharyya’s emphasis on both cultural competency as key and impactful decision making allow them to row similarly in these respects.
Bhattacharya, S. (2006). Magical Progeny, Modern Technology: A Hindu Bioethics of Reproductive Technology. Suny University Press.
Broyde, M. J. (2005). Modern Reproductive Technologies and Jewish Law. Marriage, Sex, and the Family in Judaism, 295-328. Rowman & Littlefield Pub, Inc.
Broyde, M. J. (2004). “PRE-IMPLANTATION GENETIC DIAGNOSIS, STEM CELLS AND JEWISH LAW.” Essays, 54-75.
NISHMAT. “Prenatal Testing.” NISHMAT Jewish Women’s Health, NISHMAT, www.jewishwomenshealth.org/article.php?article=32.