Final Blog – James Pittinger

I am here to speak on behalf of research into human cloning. Cloning is a marvel of modern day bio-engineering, yet the ethical line can sometimes be blurry. I believe federal funding should be allocated to research cloning in order to advance modern medicine. Before we begin looking into pros, cons, congressional councils, religious, and cultural interpretations of human cloning, I would like to say a few words as an introduction of sorts. We are to look at cloning not to judge whether these deeds are deemed moral or immoral or whether certain technology should be banned or not. Instead I ask to search deep into the human condition to fully understand what is at stake when “biology and biography” become intertwined (Kass, 224). This focuses the question on what the implications will be for family dynamics as the possibilities for reproduction continue to expand. The questions we seek to answer are philosophical, practical, and also political. Given the complexities of the choices we have before us, it is important to open the stage on a national level. The best way to do this, is to further research the topic and spread awareness and insight into the field of cloning. This is a technology that is heavily debated with relatively little research due to legality. Cloning can play an important role in the upcoming decades in the field of artificial reproduction and medicine.

 

Let’s look at some of the previous research on cloning. The President’s council of Bioethics, under President George Bush, was composed of a diverse group of contributors. These included scientists, physicians, lawyers, and theologians to name a few of the professions on the council. The council was also composed of politicians on both sides of the isle, democrats and republicans. Not to mention a diverse religious presence. The council undertook five projects in the span of two years. These projects have publicized a complex area of research and have begun to find a way to oversee the most prevailing questions in biotechnology that we presently face.

 

One of the five projects the council undertook was on the subject of cloning. They first began with the broad human contexts of cloning. These include the importance of wholistic moral healing in the face of biomedical research, the ethical contract between scientists and society, and lastly and most importantly, the worth of human life in all stages. After this, they go further and break two different types of cloning, cloning for reproductive purposes and cloning for biomedical research. The panel all agreed that regardless of the purpose cloning is used for, the process starts with a human embryo. This embryo is what makes people hesitate to further research the practical uses of cloning.  The council then unanimously voted that cloning for reproductive purposes is not only unsafe as research and techniques are still relatively primitive.  In terms of cloning for biomedical research the council, much like the nation is divided (Kass). What I have to argue is that the advantages of cloning can potentially solve much bigger puzzles. For example, inserting fetal pig brain cells into a person diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease can cease all symptoms. People with diabetes rely on insulin therapy to keep their disease under control. The transplant of genetically modified animal pancreatic islet cells, to replicate a healthy human pancreas. These are just a few of the possible advantages. Research into this field is limited. Because of this limited research there could feasibly be untapped cures to cancer, HIV, and heart disease to name a few. With careful oversite and federal licensing, research into biomedical cloning should be permissible. If there are possible cures for some of the world’s most devastating diseases, it is our duty as human beings to fully investigate.

 

Next, I would like to talk about how cloning is interpreted and accepted in the Jewish faith. In Jewish Law there are a few obligations. Among those are to help others in need and the second is from the book of Genesis “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). Most people of the Jewish faith take this as a command instead of a suggestion. Since reproduction is so highly valued in Jewish culture the use of assisted reproductive methods is permissible. It is safe to argue that cloning is also a form of assisted reproductive method, and therefore should be allowed in order for the Jewish people to be faithful to their religion (Broyde).  Within Jewish law, cloning is considered “mitzvah” which means permissible or even good deed. One of the potential arguments for anti-cloning is the cloned child would not have a true mother and father. Yet, in his paper, “Modern Reproductive Technologies and Jewish Law”, Michael Broyde offers the gestational mother should be the one who served as the incubator. While the child would not share any genetic material as the mother (for male donors – male clone) under Jewish law there are no other possible candidates as to who could be labeled the mother.

 

A possible argument against cloning is that this selective and predictive genetic engineering is a fear of the lead to eugenics, a form of selective breeding among humans. The concept of eugenics was once very popular in Nazi Germany, and it is Ironic that the worldwide leader and innovator in cloning is the people that were brutally cast away and killed due to eugenics. This ultimately ties back into my point, that the fear of eugenics should not be a reason to cease funding to programs doing research on cloning. It just might help someone be a better practicing member of the Jewish faith. While on the topic of possible arguments against cloning we turn to one of the most commonly referred to arguments. It is immoral due to the process of running tests on human embryos. If we stick to the Israeli train of thought we can find a counter argument here that Jewish law (Halakha), does not attribute human dignity to an embryo outside of the uterus. This grants the use of embryos created via somatic cell nuclear transfer for research purposes as ethically permissible (Prainsack). This allows the use of human embryos to be used for research purposes.

 

In summary, we have looked at the facts of the matter. There are benefits to cloning that go far beyond common conceptions, or perhaps I should say misconceptions. Some people will simply think of “Mini Me” from the Austin Powers movie series when they hear conversations about cloning. These people are wrong, there is so much more than what meets the eye. The medical benefits of stem cell embryotic cloning continue to grow, with feasible solutions to today’s toughest most resilient diseases. Additionally, when looking at the concepts and applications of cloning through an Israeli lens, we see a whole new perspective; not to mention Israel is one of the United States’ closest ally. I believe it is possible for us to learn from them. While I believe cloning for purposes of self-love and wanting “mini-me’s” should not be done. I believe there is a world out there that is relatively untapped, that could lead to unprecedented advances in modern medicine. Cloning is still a new technology. Like most technologies on the forefront of innovation they are surrounded by controversy. This was the case with IVF and also surrogacy, now they have become more common and less controversial. I believe cloning will follow this path and become less outlandish. Federal funding should be used to research the scientific aspect of cloning to advance human kind.

Sources:

Leon Kass, Reflections on Public Bioethics: A View from the Trenches,” Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal15 (2005): 221 -250.

Barbara Prainsack, “Negotiating Life: The Regulation of Human Cloning and Embryonic Stem Cell Research in Israel.” Social Studies of Science2006: 173-205.

Michael J. Broyde, “Modern Reproductive Technologies and Jewish Law,” In Michael J. Broyde and Michael Ausubel editors,Marriage, Sex and the Family in Judaism. (Rowman and Littlefield, 2005), pp. 295-328.

Yitzchok Breitowitz, “What’s So Bad about Human Cloning?” Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal(2004): 325-341.

Final Paper- Kyra Perkins

Written from the point of view of a religious man against cloning:
As a member of the Catholic community, I come to you all today to adamantly oppose the funding of cloning by the United States government. You may ask why a religious person why they care about science. You might even say that the United States believes that religion and government should be separate. I don’t disagree with you. Religion and government should be separate. However, when you see a country you love, regardless of your religion, turning down a dark path you are obligated to take a stand. While I am a member of the Catholic community my arguments are not a religious one, rather they are based on the morals that have been deeply ingrained in us as a country. Essentially, there are two main reasons for cloning. The first, medical research. This is where embryos are grown for the purposes of testing and for stem cell research. It is also possible to take cells from these beings for multiple other purposes. The second reason is for people to clone children, pets, or even themselves to avoid death and mourning. People clone dogs after death to avoid saying goodbye to furry friends. They try to clone children for women who can’t reproduce or have lost children. Some people even try to clone themselves to ensure that they continue to live on. A small baby made with their exact copied genetic makeup to raise as themselves in hopes that when that one clone grows old it will again repeat the cloning process to ensure that they line on forever.
As far as science goes, cloning has some major benefits that we cannot ignore. I will admit that. “On the one hand, there is the promise that such research could lead to important knowledge of human embryological development and gene action, especially in cases in which there are genetic abnormalities that lead to disease. There is also the promise that such research could contribute to producing transplantable tissues and organs that could be effective in curing or reversing many dreaded illnesses and injuries – including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, juvenile diabetes, and spinal cord injury… fidelity both to the highest moral and human aspirations of science and medicine and to the moral standards of the wider community requires that we consider not only why and how to proceed with new lines of research, but also whether there might be compelling reasons not to do so or certain limits that should be observed.” (The President’s Council on Bioethics). My heart goes out to the people who struggle with these diseases and these, what I know have to be, painful and difficult injuries. However, it is important to think about whether or not solving one person’s pain is justification for cloning. Regardless of being made in a womb or in a lab, these beings are living breathing humans. Until a study can thoroughly, without a doubt, prove otherwise, they feel pain in the same way we do. Is it worth bringing pain to one individual to save another? More importantly, should the government not only support, but use American tax dollars to fund these experiments? I speak for myself, and hopefully, most other conscious Americans when I state, find a better way. Find a better way to test, find a better way to get cells for testing, just find a better way. This is not a Catholic argument. It is argument for the moral fiber of the United States. Since I am a religious man, I do think it is important though, to consider the religious community’s views because so many Americans do consider themselves religious.
When considering the Catholic community’s stand point, it is important to look to what religious leaders say on matters such as these. According to the Donum Vitae and the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, “Techniques of fertilization in vitro can open the way to other forms of biological and genetic manipulation of human embryos, such as attempts or plans for fertilization between human and animal gametes and the gestation of human embryos in the uterus of animals, or the hypothesis or project of constructing artificial uteruses for the human embryo. These procedures are contrary to the human dignity proper to the embryo, and at the same time they are contrary to the right of every person to be conceived and to be born within marriage and from marriage. Also, attempts or hypotheses for obtaining a human being without any connection with sexuality through “twin fission”, cloning or parthenogenesis are to be considered contrary to the moral law, since they are in opposition to the dignity both of human procreation and of the conjugal union.” Furthermore, “the gift of life which God the Creator and Father has entrusted to man calls him to appreciate the inestimable value of what he has been given and to take responsibility for it: this fundamental principle must be placed at the center of one’s reflection in order to clarify and solve the moral problems raised by artificial interventions on life as it originates and on the processes of procreation. Thanks to the progress of the biological and medical sciences, man has at his disposal ever more effective therapeutic resources; but he can also acquire new powers, with unforeseeable consequences, over human life at its very beginning and in its first stages. Various procedures now make it possible to intervene not only in order to assist but also to dominate the processes of procreation.” It is not our job as humans to create life for the betterment of other life. In Judaism they also have fundamental concerns about cloning. Based on their laws and beliefs, they find it difficult, if not impossible, to support the usage of their tax dollars for cloning and the subsequent experimentation testing of these clones once they are created. “Initially, an analysis of the implications of cloning found in Jewish law really contains within it three distinctly different problems in need of resolution. The first problem is whether the cloning process is permissible, prohibited, or a good deed…, there is no mitzvah (as none of the participants are obligated). The activity itself is neither good nor bad, although the need to engage in other prohibited activity would be enough to prohibit this cloning according to Jewish law, as there is no counterbalancing mitzvah to offset even a small impropriety.” (Broyde).
Another important point to consider is that of parenthood. In the case that the government or scientists and researchers have cloned a human using cells from a dead person or even a donor, who is the parent? While this seems like a small point to make, the person who is the guardian of this living being is also the one who is obligated to take care of it. If the cloned being is the responsibility of the American government then not only will you need tax money for the research, but also extra money for any care and necessities these beings have. That is more money coming out of the pockets of hardworking citizens of the United States or more money diverted away from our already underfunded education system or failing medical system. Ask yourselves, how do you plan to explain to the American public that you have taken money from their child’s education for the immoral cloning and creating of living beings in a lab? I can assure you now, it won’t go over well.
To my second point, people clone to avoid dealing with the harsh realities of death and mourning or to fix the inability to conceive a child by any other means. Cloning has the ability to create a living being made of your exact same genetic makeup. “We must weigh whether to take up this matter in the context of deciding what to do about cloning-to-produce-children or in the somewhat different context of the ethics of embryo and stem cell research more generally. The issue has in fact emerged in the public moral debate over anti-cloning legislation, as a complication in the effort to stop cloning-to-produce-children. Generally speaking, the most effective way to prevent cloning-to-produce-children would arguably be to stop the process at the initial act of cloning, the production (by an act of somatic cell nuclear transfer [SCNT]) of the embryonic human clone.” (The President’s Council on Bioethics). To many people, they believe that an exact genetic equal means that this person will walk, talk, and act like them. Unfortunately, this idea comes from watching a few too many science fiction films. We, as human beings, are who we are partially because of our genetic makeup. However, the majority of our personality traits and opinions come from our life experiences. For example, if you were attacked by a dog at 5 years old, you were probably afraid of dogs for a significant period of your life. Likewise, if you went through a negative emotional experience, such as loss of a parent at a young age, it might have shaped some personality trait within you that you cherish today. Your clone, having none of those experiences, would have none of those personality traits. In short, experiences make you who you are and therefore, your clone will be an entirely different person. The idea of a clone ensuring that you live forever shows an ignorance of the human experience. Furthermore, a cloned being is not any more of a life insurance than a normal child would be.
Cloning is the human creation of human beings. Not only is it wrong religiously but it is wrong morally as well. Today, I urge the Congress of this great United States of America to truly consider the implications of the decisions you make today. When you vote for or against this funding remember that your actions have serious implications. It should not be the goal of this Congress to support the creation of human beings for the sole purpose of research, experimentation, and tissue harvesting. More importantly, the money of the American taxpayers should not go to this immoral act. Furthermore, we as American taxpayers should not have to use our hard-earned money to clone rich men who have a fear of death. Thank you for your time.

An Angle on IVF (Final Paper) – Vijaya Reddy

Good Evening. Today, I would like to address the debate regarding the validity of IVF (in vitro fertilization), and I will also provide my personal statement concerning IVF and whether or not it should be prohibited or permissible in America as a whole.

As our world is rapidly advancing and globalizing, I believe we, as a nation, should keep up with the world’s pace by addressing the benefits and drawbacks of these assisted reproductive technologies and deciding how they would affect American society. Within our nation, there is an internal divide between people who believe IVF should be banned as it undermines human dignity and people who advocate for IVF as a potential way to fulfill their individual desires or religious obligations to have children. This controversy persists due to the differences in cultures and various backgrounds in America along with the moral consequences associated with IVF.

First and foremost, I want us all to acknowledge that America is an extremely diverse nation with an immense variety of religions and cultures. Almost every religion contains its own unique ideals and regulations on procreation. Some religions, such as Hinduism and Islam, place a huge emphasis on the importance of having children, and as a result, couples often are inclined to use IVF as a last resort to fulfill their religious expectations. Other cultures, such as Roman Catholicism, emphasize children are a part of life and a gift from God, which means humans should not interfere with God’s creations. Because of America’s large scale diversity, I believe there is no possible way we can effectively regulate the use of IVF, and banning IVF as a whole would be the equivalent of denying individuals the freedom of religion because we are obstructing certain individuals from fulfilling their religious obligations. Therefore, I strongly advocate that IVF should be condoned as it allows people to attain their religious obligations; it brings infertile couples happiness by putting them out of their depression and suffering, and, as I will explain later in my testimony, many major religious texts throughout the world illustrate and condone the use of IVF and many other assisted reproductive technologies.

On the other hand, many people align with the Catholic Church in that they believe that if the embryos are living, they must be respected like any other person, and since several embryos are destroyed during the process of IVF, the Catholic Church condemns the use of IVF. Additionally, Catholics follow natural law, which is both an agreement with scripture and an agreement with reasoning, and natural law prompts them to believe that assisted reproductive technology is permissible when it is in the context of a legitimate marriage (marriage recognized by biology and society) and does not allow the third party to intervene with the marriage’s moral and social values. The Catholic Church also believes, in respect to natural law, that “reproductive technology enables man to dominate the process of procreation”, which impels him to surpass the limits of “reasonable dominion” over nature (Donum Vitae 141).While I do agree with the Catholic Church that “human life must be respected from the very instant of existence”, I believe human life begins when the fetus has been delivered out of the womb since it takes its first breath within ten seconds of its delivery; therefore, in my opinion, an embryo is not a human and cannot be given the same rights as a human (Donum Vitae 151). In addition, I do not believe that the Catholic Church’s view on reproductive technology is the direct reflection of God’s will, rather it is a radical, strict interpretation of the Bible. People should not be forced by law to follow another man’s interpretation of a religious text; they should have the freedom to form their own understandings and decisions on IVF and assisted reproductive technologies. Chiefly, the Catholic Church’s regulation that reproductive technologies can be allowed for only a legitimate marriage with no third party intervention is distorted since Jesus, the son of God, was born through his surrogate mother, Mary. Here, there was no legitimate marriage between Mary and God the father, but Mary got pregnant through the Holy Spirit without sexual intercourse. This can be seen as a divine form of IVF and surrogacy, so it is hypocritical for the Catholic Church to ban the use of assisted reproductive technologies when Jesus himself was conceived through a surrogate mother. Lastly, as the Catholic Church believes humans should not interfere with God’s process of procreation, Jewish teachings emphasize that “ human beings – since they were created in God’s image -… are explicitly required to interfere with God’s creation” (Prainsack 180). The point I am trying to articulate is that each culture has its own interpretation of religious text, and we would be imprudent to force people by law to follow a specific interpretation of religious text.

Furthermore, many cultures and traditions with reference to religious texts exemplify that having children is a crucial aspect of life that people must attain and experience. For instance, in the Book of Genesis, God orders humans to “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Genesis 2). Here, God places an obligation upon humans to reproduce, but God does not mention how humans should reproduce; therefore, whether a child is conceived through a natural marriage or IVF, the obligation to reproduce has been fulfilled. This is one of the reasons why Israel, a Jewish nation, is a pro-natal state and why Israelis place a huge emphasis on the importance of motherhood as “the most primal and natural goal for women” independent of marriage (Kahn 122). Additionally, in Israeli society, most women chose IVF because they believed it was better than having sexual relations with a man, it was less expensive and less complex than adoption, and it presented the opportunity to have one’s own genetic children who are respected in society as ” legitimate, full-fledged Jews” (Kahn 141). Currently, around 6-7 million Jews live in the United States, and unlike Catholics, they focus on legal portions on biblical text. Basically, if the use of the assisted reproductive technology is not prohibited in the Bible or the Torah, it is usually condoned for the sole purpose of “fulfilling the divine commandment of procreation” (Prainsack 174). In the Bible, when Sarah could not bear children, she gives her servant, Hagar, to her husband Abraham in order to obtain a child; this is an example of “traditional surrogacy”, in which the mother is impregnated with the sperm of a man—often one whose wife is incapable of producing eggs—usually by means of artificial insemination (Seeman 344). Traditional surrogacy was a common practice at the time, since a childless woman was shamed by her family and community. If we ban IVF and other reproductive technologies, we are not only denying individuals the means to attain their religious obligations; we are denying them the freedom of choice and the ability to pursue what they think is best for their circumstances.                                                

Similar to Judaism, Hinduism also has a more accepting attitude towards IVF and other reproductive technologies as a loophole to infertility because Hindus, like Jews, also place a huge emphasis on the significance of having children. Essentially, most Hindus read or listen to portions of the Mahabharata, an ancient, crucial Indian epic, at least once in their lifetime; therefore, it “occupies a special place within Hindu traditions” by preserving insights of its own time and providing guidance for the future ( Bhattacharya 30). In the Mahabharata, when Pandu, the king of Hastinapur, finds out that he possesses a curse that will inhibit him from having children, Pandu miserably says, “For a childless man they say…there is no door to heaven. Therefore I who am childless am much troubled” (Bhattacharrya 50). Thus, even though there is not a Hindu law that proclaims Hindus are obligated to reproduce, most Hindus feel that it is their duty, or dharma, to produce good children that will benefit the society as a whole, and if they do not complete this duty, they believe that they will be prevented from reaching heaven or moksha, a state of peace. Assisted Reproductive technologies are seen as a last resort to fulfill an individual’s dharma, and as a result, secure a peaceful afterlife. Furthermore, in the Mahabharata, when Kunti and Madri, the wives of Pandu, are upset that they cannot conceive children, they each contact a God that has desirable qualities, such as leadership, strength, and power, who gives them a child. By getting impregnated through God, Kunti and Madri accessed a “divine sperm bank” just as modern Hindus seek artificial insemination to combat infertility (Bhattacharrya 42). In addition, just as Kunti and Madri had the opportunity to choose which God their child came from, modern Hindus carefully select their donors based on what qualities they want their child to possess. Because reproductive technologies hold their place in the Mahabharata and possessing children is a common cultural standard in Hindu society, we cannot ban IVF in America. Prohibiting the use of IVF and other reproductive technologies to approximately three million Hindus who live in America would be unjust as we are not considering how penetrating the desire and expectation to obtain children is in Hindu society, and as a governing body; it is our duty to ensure the happiness and well-being of our citizens.                                                                                                                                                                                                In summation, due to America’s wide diversity, I believe there is no effective way we can regulate the use of IVF, and banning IVF entirely would take away the religious freedom of citizens as we are preventing certain individuals from fulfilling their religious obligations. Thus, I strongly advocate that IVF should be condoned as it allows people to attain their religious obligations; it brings infertile couples joy by putting them out of their misery and suffering of not being able to conceive a child, and several major religious texts throughout the world chronicle and accept the use of IVF and many other assisted reproductive technologies as a loophole to infertility. For these reasons, I believe funding for IVF should not be ceased, but it should be restricted and determined upon on the income level of the family and the family’s moral and social values; IVF should only be offered for procreation purposes.

Thank You for your time.

 

Works Cited:

Book of Genesis, chapters 1-2 < www.webpages.uidaho.edu/PDF/Genesis.pdf>

Donum Vitae In Shanon, Thomas A. and Lisa Sowle Cahill, Religion and Artificial Reproduction: An Inquiry into the Vatican “Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Reproduction.” (Crossroad, 1988).

Susan Martha Kahn, Reproducing Jews: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception in Israel (Duke University Press, 2000).

Don Seeman, “Ethnography, Exegesis and Jewish Ethical Reflection: The New Reproductive Technologies in Israel.” In Daphna Birenbaum-Carmeli and Yoram S. Carmeli editors, Kin, Gene, Community: Reproductive Technologies Among Jewish Israelis (Berghahn Books, 2010), pp. 340-362.

Swasti Bhattacharya, Magical Progeny, Modern Technology: A Hindu Bioethics of Reproductive Technology (Suny University Press, 2006).

Barbara Prainsack, “Negotiating Life: The Regulation of Human Cloning and Embryonic Stem Cell Research in Israel.” Social Studies of Science 2006: 173-205. e-reserve

Final Assignment – Jin Yoo

Final Assignment: For the Continued Funding of In-Vitro Fertilization

The United States is a country commonly referred to as the “melting pot”. With centuries of immigrants bringing in their heterogeneous backgrounds of varying religions, ethnicities, and beliefs, this country has been at the forefront of promising liberty and freedom for all individuals, regardless of status and background. Interestingly, however, the American debate on reproductive biomedical technology has been built heavily on Christian principles, with conservatives seeking their position from Christian texts of what constitutes a family (Bhattacharyya 12), while liberals assume the opposing side of autonomy (Braun 43). However, while the discourse can certainly include religious values, the governing laws on reproductive technologies in America should be shifted from Christian principles to those that are secular in order to satisfy the overarching definition of America: a place of acceptance, regardless of identity. Thus, my testimony today promotes the funding of IVF: Congress should continue to fund for the reproductive technology of in-vitro fertilization, shifting discourse from religious and economical ethics to one that centers on the patient, her family, and the embryos at stake.

To begin with, discourse should not (have) be around maximizing production – economically or religiously; it should be about the ethics of the patient, and if she wishes to have a child, she should be allowed to do so. The fundamental rights of a human being include that of autonomy, to have the liberty to make one’s own decisions and act upon them, while maintaining respect for the rest of society and the ethics of that body (Braun 44). The ethics of a certain group of people can vary from the individual differences of the people that make it up, but for this particular discussion, the “body” in question is that of the American public. The ethics of the United States are mainly driven on the same basic principles to that of other developed nations, but with the rise of biomedical technology, there has been an increase in questions raised regarding what is considered “ethical”. However, autonomy has always been a given in the US, from the Bill of Rights to various promotions on self-acceptance. Even from the viewpoint of German skeptics, who strongly believe in “underscor[ing] the limits of technological solutions and the price that individuals and society might have to pay for them” (Braun 43), define autonomy as: “a society’s political capacity to control the development of science & technology despite structural constraints such as the imperative to increase economic competitiveness” (Braun 49). In other words, while German skeptics would be most analogous to the conservatives of America, they believe in not only the individuality of the patient, but also in the significance for governments to devalue the prospects of losing to international economic competition when considering the ethics of IVF. Thus, while it may be that other countries that actively promote research on this technology can capitalize off of the market, the United States should not allow this to be the driving factor of IVF laws. This can prevent the same conflicts that arise from pharmaceutical companies, such as the lack of development of a male birth control pill or medications for deadly but rare diseases, which are all deemed as unprofitable. With this having been established, IVF in America can be highly patient-centered, thus optimizing the patient’s autonomy of the process.

Likewise, the governing structures for IVF technology should not be driven from religious contexts. The laws that oversee a nation such as America, which celebrates independence, should not be hindered by religious texts that do not represent every individual of that population. For instance, why should a secular, infertile woman be prevented from attempting IVF due to Christian principles? Thus, if the opponents of IVF come from traditional values and the Christian belief system (Braun 43), their viewpoints should not be the determining factor of such a woman. However, this is not to say that religion should not be incorporated in ethical discussions – in fact, various backgrounds from all religious schools should be considered in order to determine the most ethical approach to IVF. Yet the legality behind this, particularly in the United States, should not be based on this singular belief system that is not demonstrative of the religious diversity that exists in this country. Thus, Congress should continue funding for IVF to promote autonomy, and do so in a way that does so completely, freed from economic greed and inappropriate religious enforcements.

Turning from the patient herself to the life forms being created, another opposing argument against in-vitro fertilization is the damage of embryos that takes place in its clinical process. The question that stemmed debate was what exactly constitutes a life form. When Nida-Rumelin of Germany’s Council of Ethics sparked an “intense public response” for establishing differences between a person and a human being, implying that the latter was inferior to the former, the German parliamentarians officially decided that embryonic stem cell research was prohibited (Braun 47). Likewise, Christian laws state that human life begins at conception, and every form of reproductive technology is negatively seen besides homologous marital IVF (Shannon 154). However, even in light of a Christian perspective, the evaluation of research on embryos establishes that it is allowed with “proper consent and insurance of no harm” (Shannon 153). In fact, in the Jewish community, which shares the same Old Testament with Christianity, IVF is encouraged, with more clinics per capita in Israel than in any other country in the world (Seeman 340). While this stems from the obligation that Jewish men hold to procreate and “to be fruitful and multiply” (Broyde 301), it is carried in a fashion that still maintains respect for fetal life, as the womb is still considered the “privileged locus of divine benedictions” (Seeman 342). Thus, with continued funding from Congress, in-vitro fertilization can be developed to minimize embryo harm and loss, and until then, the United States could take preventative measures that implement limitations on the number of embryos to be trialed on. This is similar to Germany’s approach to IVF, which prohibits women to only three eggs per cycle (Braun 44).

As technology continues to develop with the financial aid of Congress in this project, respect can be maintained for the embryo by limitations – this would satisfy both parties of the debate, by allowing the process to occur for those who believe in their moral right to do so while prohibiting excessive use and preventative damage to the fetal life. Therefore, the prior question of what constitutes the definition of life can remain undetermined while allowing legal actions to maintain autonomy of the individuals who seek this treatment. However, regardless of the existence of these limitations, Congress and all parties involved in this technological process should seek to incorporate the Hindi principles of karma, dharma, and ahimsa to further maintain respect for fetal life (Bhattacharyya 13). This is not to imply that Hinduism should replace Christianity’s influence on the US government; neither should be the deciding factor when laws are being made for a diverse group of people. Rather, I am suggesting the promotion of Hindi principles simply because of the relevance and benefit it can hold in doing so. Discussion regarding these values should be promoted in order to determine the best method in applying the sciences clinically because these three characteristics of Hindu thought reflect upon the consequences of this topic

Specifically, the theories of karma, ahimsa and dharma “ultimately hold each of us responsible for all of our actions” (Bhattacharyya 108). According to Bhattacharyya, “a human fetus is not simply inconsequential tissue easily discarded, nor is it a fully matured adult human being” (107), and taking life will have karmic consequences. These “karmic consequences” can be translated to the overarching idea of ethics that can vary from religious groups, but the idea that such results exist and are negative should be kept in mind to prevent avoidable damage. In addition, while seemingly out of scope within the discussion of in-vitro fertilization, the idea of dharma, or the harm vs good that can result from one’s actions, influences stem cell research that can potentially find cures for organ failure, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s (Bhattacharyya 108): while there may be some life-forms harmed in the process, the overall gains of society may trump the losses, and this is applicable for IVF as well – while IVF may lead to the destruction of some embryo, the baby that is brought into a seeking family may outweigh the deaths of the fetal lives. Lastly, ahimsa promotes the “sanctity of human life” (Bhattacharyya 107), which can further aid in the protection of embryos and other life forms, whether it be a cell or a fully developed adult, regardless of varying religious textual interpretations. Thus, while Congress continues to promote research and usage of IVF through funded supplies, limitations and Hindi principles should be considered to weigh the consequences that can come from potential destruction of embryos.

Lastly, I will briefly shift my testimony from the individual level to that of the family. The United Nations believes that “families can be created between any individuals of full age” (Bhattacharyya 94). This is simply a statement that highlights the diversity of families, which can consist of individuals from all different backgrounds. Therefore, if a Jewish couple is seeking IVF to fulfill their obligation of procreation, or if a Christian couple is looking for the safest way to have a baby that will still constitute the Biblical definitions of marriage, they should be allowed to do so. Some cultures strongly believe in their obligation to procreate, and those who do should be allowed to, unhindered by contrasting religious thoughts of government members. If the family is about to fall apart due to the tragedies that disallow them from producing a baby through copulation, they should have the power to mend the relationship through IVF, supported by the UN’s decree that individuals have the right to create a family.

On the opposing side to this discussion, there is a rising group of neoconservatives in America. Yuval Levin, a leader in the President’s Council on Bioethics, stated that new conservatives in America have a mission to “prevent our transformation into a culture without awe filled with people without souls” (Mackin 37) – this implies that if technological advancements are implemented into every day life, our culture will be dull and the people insensitive. However, this is a limited undertake on the sheer admiration that should exist with the joy of producing a child so willfully sought. The New Atlantis, a recent publication that explores the conservative perspective to IVF and other biomedical technologies (Macklin 34), adds extremist insights on the harms of artificiality. However, as Robert Veatch stated in 1971, artificial is not evil (Macklin 35), and the idea that cells extracted from real humans to produce a real baby that will develop into a real human is “artificial” can also be held for debate.

From the same President’s Council on Bioethics, which is a group established to “advise the President on bioethical issues that may merge as a consequence of advances in biomedical science and technology” (Kass 224), Kass speaks about the major works and missions of the government that promotes diverse conversations on these topics. The Council is faced with high responsibility, with their decisions affecting the lives of scientists, researchers, and future patients, and thus, it is essential to represent all viewpoints on this topic. Therefore, I understand the burden that can be seen with the decision Congress faces currently, whether or not to continue funding for in-vitro fertilization. However, I believe my arguments today have established a viewpoint regarding IVF that attempts to mediate the conflicting religious and ethical concerns of the American population.

Ultimately, as ethical questions continue to be raised with the further development of biomedical technology, technology can also advance limit and resolve these issues, while the technicalities of their usage can be limited to satisfy the clashing values of community members. Extremist approaches from either sides of the spectrum should not hinder the liberty that defines America, and a middle ground can be established, as technology can be further developed to maximize fertility rates and minimize the death of embryos while using in-vitro fertilization. If Congress continues to fund for this program, the progress and development of biomedical technology in this sector will only continue to prosper, increasing the likelihood that the problems observed with harming various levels of life-form from in-vitro fertilization will be mediated. To insure autonomy of the patient, the wishes of the patient’s family, and the respect of the embryo, Congress should continue their monetary assistance for in-vitro fertilization. After all, the United States is the land of freedom, and while ethics from all backgrounds should fuel discussion on IVF, religious and economic reasons should not determine the governing laws on this sensitive issue.

 

Works Cited

Bhattacharya, S. (2006). Magical Progeny, Modern Technology: A Hindu Bioethics of Reproductive Technology. Suny University Press.

Braun, K. (2005). Not Just for Experts: The Public Debate about Reprogenetics in Germany. Hastings Center Report 35, 42-49. The Hastings Center.

Broyde, M. J. (2005). Modern Reproductive Technologies and Jewish Law. Marriage, Sex, and the Family in Judaism, 295-328. Rowman & Littlefield Pub, Inc.

Kass, L. (2005). Reflections on Public Bioethics: A View from the Trenches. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 15, 221 -250. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Macklin, R. (2006). The New Conservatives in Bioethics: Who are they and what do they seek? Hastings Center Report 36, 34-43. The Hastings Center.

Seeman, D. (2010). Kin, Gene, Community: Reproductive Technologies among Jewish Israelis (Vol. 19). New York: Berghahn Books. Retrieved from https://reserves.library.emory.edu/Shib/ares.dll?Action=10&Type=10&Value=447785.

Shannon, T. A., & Cahill, L. S. (1988). Religion and artificial reproduction: An inquiry into the Vatican “Instruction on respect for human life in its origin and on the dignity of human reproduction”. New York: Crossroad.

blog ii Addy Murry

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.

Works Cited

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.

 

Blog 2- Kadeitra Wells

Within their writings, there is some overlap between Bhattacharya and Broyde’s stances on reproductive technology. For example, Bhattacharya describes the decision for one to engage in reproductive technology an initiation of dharma, and the decision to assume full responsibility for the subsequent results of that actions as karma, which are both things that one is permitted to do under Hinduism so long as they assume responsibility Kunti and Pandu struggled to maintain traditional Hindu beliefs while fulfilling their reproductive duty. Bhattacharya mentions choosing a “divine sperm donor” over a “human sperm donor” to maintain a lawful and socially acceptable reproductive decision. This ideology is reinforced within her concept of dharma, which is the god of merit and cosmic judge in Hinduism. This way humans can do as they please with reproductive decisions while remaining religiously faithful.

She uses her sources to convey the importance placed on continuing life through reproduction and the end goal of having and expanding families instead of just focusing on the reproductive process. In a similar light, Broyde states that there is the need to help others, especially to reproduce, in Jewish doctrine (Broyde 295), and that although cloning via ICF or artificial insemination would not be the preferred option, that it was still a possibility.

However, unlike Bhattacharya, Broyde has a specified focus on who will take on the ‘mother role’. Given the nature of Jewish reproductive laws and religious doctrine, he attributes this role automatically to the gestational mother (or surrogate), while still leaving the possibility that the ‘cloned’ mother he also states that not everything humanity wants to accomplish is true and right in the eyes of Judaism (Broyde 295). Therefore, I think that Broyde would be more firmly ‘on the fence’, or more rather, indirectly against prenatal testing to not open the door for possibility of religious violation of Jewish doctrine.

The third chapter of Bhattacharya’s book utilizes the Mahabharata to guide ethical decisions under Hinduism, and to then compare the openness expressed in Hindu reproductive assistance in comparison to Roman Catholic teachings, the Torah, and the New Testament in Christianity. This is a sharp contrast to Broyde’s use of the Halakha to designate cloning as a last resort tool for reproduction that is not preferred. He also mentions the Bible and the Torah in describing the religious obligations that Judaism has to reproduction, stating that enabling those who cannot reproduce to do so, is a part of Jewish doctrine to help others in need, specifically with reproduction. However, not everything that humanity wants to do is proper in Jewish doctrine, including in vitro fertilization (296)

The integration of religious readings from each author and their methodology of drawing from these sources for audience interpretation is the primary difference between Hinduism and Judaism. The two religions do not necessarily have this much differing between them, but rather the author’s interpretation and delivery of texts varies instead.

I don’t think that both Bhattacharya and Broyde would support IVF/prenatal testing on a case by case basis. I feel as though Bhattacharya’s writing and the connections she makes between Hinduism’s dharma and karma would support this notion, but Broyde’s stance with Jewish law is more inflexible. Although Broyde states that there is the need to help others, especially to reproduce, in Jewish doctrine, he also states that not everything humanity wants to accomplish is true and right in the eyes of Judaism (Broyde 295). Therefore, I think that Broyde would be more firmly ‘on the fence’, or more rather, indirectly against prenatal testing to not open the door for possibility of religious violation of Jewish doctrine.

 

Final Blog- Monica Vemulapalli

Invasive Genetic Screening: How Funding Allows Reproductive Advancement of Society and Innovation

The growing industry of medical technology has been promising for individuals in almost every part of the medical field, especially in the reproduction sector. I will be discussing specifically one type of reproductive technology, invasive screening procedures. As someone with a medical degree and a master’s in public health, I would like to share my increasing knowledge and experience with you all in order to give you important insight on the need for progression of this technology. Funding for screening along with prenatal diagnostic testing provides the parents with the best knowledge for them and the child, in addition to giving them options for further prenatal care. Not only will I persuade you all with concrete evidence provided from proven models, but I will also introduce the reasoning behind each model and the effects brought to benefit the people affected. The main arguments for funding of invasive genetic screening include the chance to prevent, the ability to prepare if something abnormal results, and the power of couples to be reassured with the option to know if their baby is healthy. These three arguments solidify why funding should be continued for prenatal and invasive testing.

Prevention constitutes a term that not many people know the true value of. To prevent is to take care of the problem before it exists, which is the problem itself for people. It’s easy to take prevention for granted because you carry on without knowing that what you’re doing might exacerbate the onset of the problem. When it comes to genetic testing, prevention is the central element of play. The probability for a certain disorder can occur in said pregnancy, so if there’s a chance to prevent it or ameliorate the situation, why not? If the mother and father have moral or religious grounds to keep the pregnancy going with negative results, it’s due to their way of thinking, so we can respect that, but raising awareness is key. Even if we can raise awareness in the end and prevent a small number of pregnancies in order to help not only the parents, but from fetal suffering, then the technology does justice. Technology allows us to do this.

As technology in medicine progresses at a rapid pace, it gives us the amazing capability to test for fetal diseases and abnormalities.  Rayna Rapp, author of Testing Women, Testing the Fetus : The Social Impact of Amniocentesis in America, describes the invasive process of amniocentesis, which screens for genetic abnormalities of the fetus, and delves deep into the world of prenatal diagnostic testing. She describes the political support or condemnation of prenatal diagnoses as dependent on state legislators’ opinions on certain topics, while if we contrast America with European countries, they usually have established healthcare programs covering prenatal diagnostic services. (Rapp 43) Informed consent and continuing routinization of prenatal diagnostic testing is crucial because it can result in the outcome that parents didn’t ask for. For example, Rapp describes a wrongful birth case in which a 37-year-old woman received her child’s medical costs for life after “suing over not being given information about amniocentesis. Her case influenced the American College of Obstetricians and gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics to advise their member doctors that the offer of prenatal diagnosis to medically appropriate candidates was now constituted as the standard of care, at risk of a lawsuit.” (Rapp 40) Rapp’s discussion of this historic outcome set the precedent for routinization of diagnostic testing because it proved that if the test were offered, it could have resulted in a different, beneficial outcome for the mother, whether that be preparation for or prevention of the pregnancy.

Along with a right to know, there’s also a right not to know. However, when the knowledge can benefit the parents and the child, it can be used to create a better future through preparation. Looking at models of other countries’ policies on prenatal diagnostic testing and screening, Tsipy Ivry, of Embodying Culture: Pregnancy in Japan and Israel, compares and contrasts Japanese and Israeli models on prenatal testing and screening. These two culturally different models on prenatal attitudes will portray the importance for the need of prenatal care.

The Japanese treat the mother and fetus as one unit and place emphasis on the maternal environment more than genetic factors, however their system for prenatal care is well-established into low-risk and high-risk factors. For example, “The guidelines of many institutions state that amniocentesis—known in Japan for its 1:300 rate of endangering the pregnancy—should be offered to patients above the age of thirty-five; in practice ob-gyns use a variety of age thresholds that do not always accord with the guidelines.” (Ivry 111) However, there is a nondirective conservation that most doctors have with their patients, and probability is not used enough in society as Dr. Tanaka argues “In Japan the concept of probability is underdeveloped. I think it is normal that people cannot associate these figures with themselves. For example, if you say that there is a probability of 1:300that the child will have Down syndrome, most people do not think that that has anything to do with them.” (Ivry 111) This statement helps us understand the need to raise awareness and prepare parents for the health of their future baby. Dr. Tanaka’s words showcase the international need to implement genetic testing. The need for understanding probability and pregnancy outcomes are crucial as age and medical pedigree can influence the baby’s health. As the average rate of women having children is increasing, so is the risk factor. Invasive genetic screening uses advanced technology to measure this probability and prepare the parents to make an educated decision. Ivry also examines prenatal care in Israel.

The Japanese prenatal care system contrasts with Israeli regulations, because in Israel, classes are held that explain the detailed procedure and concerns for those interested in amniocentesis. In addition, amniocentesis is state-subsidized for women who apply and meet the qualifications. An example of a woman Ivry interviewed, in all her three pregnancies she also made sure “to take a three-hour ride from her house to undergo intensive ultrasound screening at the clinic of a leading specialist and did not skip amniocentesis either. She told me about a friend of hers whose son had died ten months after being born with a metabolic disease that had not been diagnosed prior to birth. whose son had died ten months after being born with a metabolic disease that had not been diagnosed prior to birth.” (Ivry 224) From this example, we see that the outcome could have been different if the mother had gotten the genetic screening test. It could have diagnosed the metabolic disease which could have informed her of the effects and his lifespan. We can infer that Israelis emphasize the genetic environment rather than the maternal, and support, usually, the prenatal testing and screening as in the fertile culture of Jews lies a fear of medically worst-case scenarios and anxieties (Ivry 228), which leads them to prepare by using medically proven examinations.

The increasing standardization of pregnancy screening tests can be attributed to not only advancing technology, but also changing circumstances. In the beginning, “the technology of prenatal diagnosis was developed explicitly to allow the selective abortion of fetuses facing serious disabilities because of atypical chromosomes and genes” (Rapp 70). When one thinks of genetic screening, abortion might be the first option to come to mind. However, time and better understanding of these tests has made them evolve not for the sole purpose of abortion but as a tool of reassurance. A factor for women that increases the chances of chromosomal problems is age. Prenatal diagnostic tests such as amniocentesis makes screening for these problems possible. An important statistic to consider is the average age women are becoming mothers. In 1994, the average age was 23, now it is 26. This is due to a large number of older age women giving birth. A dramatic shift occurs in the age group of never married women aged 40-44, who in 1994, gave birth 31% on average, and now, the statistic has climbed to 55%. (Pew Research Center 2018) With the growing age of women giving birth, the need for prenatal diagnostic testing is also growing.  In addition, hereditary diseases in a medical pedigree allow those concerned to have the knowledge that is available from getting genetic screening. As a medical doctor who sees pregnant women over a certain age, it is important to give the necessary precaution and advice to get tested for the health of the fetus. Increasing funding will aid the process of reassuring most women that their baby is healthy from knowing certain characteristics of the pregnancy.

One of these characteristics is probability of the child carrying a hereditary disease that the parents might have in their family. Rapp states “Consciousness is also shaped by a more capacious sense of family history, and the memories of kinship through which that his- tory is constructed. Some women and men have had extensive experiences with disabled children, and they told richly detailed stories of growing up with affected siblings or cousins. Others recounted skeletons hidden in the family closet.” (Rapp 150) An important consideration when emphasizing the need for invasive genetic screening to take into account that hereditary diseases are still being transmitted from generation to generation. Rapp precisely states how more and more people are being aware of this fact and getting tested for their probability of a certain familial disorder in the baby. Genes shape who we are and form a sense of kinship, but the capability, recently discovered, to confirm or deny a baby’s chance of acquiring a disorder exists now and should be used.

In a society that is improving daily with the fostering of medical care technologically and scientifically, genetic screening gives pregnancy a security. A security in knowing what the future holds, a reassurance in the health of the baby, and a chance for the parents to be prepared. Rapp says “The technologies of prenatal diagnosis, like all technologies, are produced at multiple intersections where the work of particular scientists, research clinicians, and health service providers engages social relations far beyond the purview of their laboratories, clinics, and consulting rooms. What come to count as the technologies of prenatal diagnosis, now and in the past, are shaped by large-scale transformations of biomedical knowledge, our legal structure, widely shared and sometimes contested cultural values, and the social identities within which service providers and patients encounter one another.” (Rapp 24) As society and its technologies advance, people are advancing with new knowledge and are better equipped for the future. Nevertheless, with all issues, moral, religious, and ethical concerns can arise, but while looking at models done in different countries, an evolution of opinion occurs based on many different factors. At the end, the decision is up to the parents to proceed with the screening, to terminate if the baby faces a serious disability, or to keep the baby as it is. However, in providing funding to this procedure, we are increasing the opportunities for pregnant mothers to get tested in the first place, to let them have a decision based on scientifically proven results, and to guide them with their pregnancy with assistance from medical and health-related professionals.

References

Ivry, Tsipy. Embodying Culture: Pregnancy in Japan and Israel. Rutgers Univ. Press, 2010.

Livingston, Gretchen. “They’re Waiting Longer, but U.S. Women Today More Likely to Have Children Than a Decade Ago.” Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project, 18 Jan. 2018, www.pewsocialtrends.org/2018/01/18/theyre-waiting-longer-but-u-s-women-today-more-likely-to-have-children-than-a-decade-ago/.

Rapp, Rayna. Testing Women, Testing the Fetus: the Social Impact of Amniocentesis in America. Routledge, 2000.

The Burden of Knowledge: Moral Dilemmas in Prenatal Testing. Dir. By Wendy Conquest, Bob Drake and Deni Elliott. Distributor: The Fanlight Collection, 1994. Docuseek2. Web. 24 Jun 2018.

blog ii

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.

Works Cited

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.

 

 

 

 

Blog 2- Isac

When comparing both authors’ approaches to reproductive technology I could identify various differences in the narrative and the arguments each present. The first difference is that Bhattacharya offers comparative analysis when the Hindu approaches are compared and contrasted with those of the Torah, the New Testament and especially Roman Catholic teachings. In contrast, Broyde’s approach is solely based on Jewish Law and its views on reproductive technologies. The Halakha views cloning as less than the ideal way to reproduce people, but when there is no other method available then it accepts having children through cloning – it even considers it a mitzvah (commandment/good deed). In the third chapter of Bhattacharya’s book, there is a narrative of the Mahabharata that is used as an ethical guideline. It explains that in it, there is a priority placed on having children while accepting a variety of creative means to ‘produce’ offspring. In Broyde’s approach, there is a clear intent to explain the reason behind the hesitancy towards avoiding the use of cloning as means of reproduction while in Bhattacharya’s approach there seems to be a more open perspective towards – in general – every type of reproduction system.

Furthermore, it is important to note that in both cases there is a different basis for the narrative used. Even though both touch upon alternative reproductive systems as a possibility alongside respective reasonings, the texts used to argument each of the perspectives is vastly different. In Broyde’s work there is vast reference to the Jewish ‘Law’ – a set of rules that are to be abided by – as well as reference to biblical stories like the Golem on page 306 as well as interpretations from various Rabbis such as in page 304 referring to the comments on the ‘Identical Twin Issue. On the other hand, in Bhattacharya’s book there is no reference to a practical set of rules apart from a set of “theoretical” laws written in the Laws of Manu, however, in chapter 2 there is a synopsis of the Mahabharata and an extensive reference to the stories of how the three queens Kunti, Munti, and Gandhari overcome the challenge of infertility to provide for their descendants. In these stories there is an underlying tone of reproductive manipulation; for example, how Kunti and Madri deal with the curse placed upon their husband to call upon the G-ds to impregnate them or how Gandhari manipulates the product of her conception to bring the births of one hundred sons and one daughter. Bhattacharya extrapolates from these stories to show how they can be used to discuss bioethical issues such as fertility medications, sperm banks, donor artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization and embryonic transfer.

In the latter piece there is more of an emphasis on the importance of women to take control of their reproductive choices (Chapter 3), her approach is interdisciplinary in that she brings up examples and evidence from nursing, bioethics and Hindu culture and religion (with interviews from a contemporary Hindu community in California) this gives the book an appropriate focus on women’s experience throughout. drawing. However, in Broyde’s narrative, there is no such distinction between the roles of each of the biological genders. It clearly defines that a clone is seen as a full human being and that is should be treated as such. It also defines the parent-child relationship as to be equal to the usual parent-child relationship.

These differences are not to be considered specifically because of the differences between Hinduism and Judaism but also because of the specific methodologies of these authors. There is a natural tendency to get away from what is not known, this is mainly because the consequences of the action are yet to be understood. However, not addressing the possibility of knowledge – permanently – is considered regrettable. Jewish tradition imposes an obligation on those who are capable, to resolve the issues and submit a preliminary analysis for others to comment and critique it, after that the Jewish Law or Halakha will establish the policy concerning a variety of issues related to the issue, in the case of Broyde’s piece it would be cloning. Bhattacharya’s methodology – as mentioned before – is interdisciplinary and it draws evidence from nursing, biology, ethics, Hindu culture, and religion as well as contemporary perspectives from a Hindu community; she sets out to examine how key elements of Hindu thought can deal with the complex issues involved in infertility and reproductive technology. Thematic unity is provided by grounding the analysis of creative insights drawn from the epic Mahabharata and the ways it deals with challenges of infertility.

Overall, both authors address the topic of reproductive technologies in a similar fashion. They both bring up histories of their respective religions as well as books of law to argue for an idea. Differences arise when looking at the proportion to which each of the authors reach to these sources to argue. It is noticeable that in Broyde’s piece there are more Law-based examples in comparison to Bhattacharya who analyses more in-depth the Mahabharata which in it of itself is a collection of stories like the ones mentioned above. Additionally, the methodologies vary between the authors in a sense that – apart from the fact that they are 2 different religions – each use a different set of resources due to the inherent nature of the state of each faith. In terms, Hinduism lacked a base to which attribute a perspective on reproductive systems, therefore the author saw a necessity for a complete analysis and incorporation of Hinduism into the subject. In turn, Boyde’s work is based upon building on top of something that already existed – i.e the Jewish Law or Halakha.

Blog 2- Danielle Collett

As reproductive technology continues to rapidly grow and develop across the globe, an increasing number of anthropologists seek to understand the role these technologies play within different cultures, societies, and civilizations. In order to understand the importance and permissibility of reproductive practices cross-culturally, anthropologists turn to religious texts to form the foundations of such bioethical conversations. In this paper, I will explore the work of Swasti Bhattacharyya in her book, Magical Progeny, Modern Technology: A Hindu Bioethics of Assisted Reproductive Technology, which delves into her interpretation of how the Mahabharata can be used to explain various bioethical issues in India. I will also look at Michael J. Broyde’s Marriage, Sex, and Family in Judaism, in which he forms a preliminary analysis of reproductive technologies, specifically cloning, from a Jewish normative law perspective. Through a careful analysis of both works, I will characterize some of the main differences found between Bhattacharyya’s and Broyde’s works, and draw conclusions about their perspectives on the cultural implications of reproductive technology found in two, different countries.

Bhattacharyya uses the Mahabharata, the longest epic ever written, as her primary source to analyze and draw bioethical conclusions from a Hindu perspective regarding reproductive technologies. She begins her book by establishing that because Hinduism has no formal law regarding reproductive technology, she will use her interpretation of three stories from the Mahabharata describing three women and their efforts to bear children, to create a Hindu perspective of bioethics. She uses the Mahabharata because its “paradigmatic narratives are mines that upon excavation will reveal the jewels that reflect India’s past, its present, and Hinduism’s ethical ideology” (Bhattacharyya 32). Ostensibly, the book seems to emphasize the stories which are told in great detail; however, it becomes increasingly clear by the end of the book, that the level of detail in these stories is not as important as her overall message and goal: religion and culture play a large role in bioethics and it is thus extremely important to establish and understand cultural competency. Bhattacharyya’s description of the stories in the Mahabharata serve as a cosmology and foundation for her formation of different bioethical principles from a Hindu perspective. She describes Hinduism as a religion, “overflowing with options, alternatives, and divergent beliefs” (Bhattacharyya 49) and that it is for this reason that Hindus welcome pluralism, embracing a variety of different voices, and are bothered by any “attempt to eliminate alternative views” (Bhattacharyya 50). It is important to recognize that Bhattacharyya does not claim to represent the Hindu voice of reproductive technology and morals, but rather seeks to take many, different voices into consideration in attempt to draw more broad and abstract conclusions about such technology usage in India.

With a significantly different methodology, Broyde uses various sets of Jewish laws emphasized by rabbinic authorities in attempt to draw conclusions about cloning. Broyde uses these concrete laws and morals to guide his thoughts throughout the article, leaving little room for interpretation. Unlike Bhattacharyya’s attempt to draw analogies between the stories in the Mahabharata and bioethics, Broyde focuses on how specific Jewish laws and beliefs about reproductive technology affect kinship rules and situations while simultaneously interweaving the scientific process of cloning. Broyde’s goal is “not to advance a rule that represents itself as definitive normative Jewish law” (Broyde 304), but rather, to “attempt to outline some of the issues in the hope that others will focus on the same problems.” This goal lends itself to his preliminary analysis regarding the effect of cloning on marriage, parental status, and other related kinship issues. Through a series of examples regarding other reproductive technologies, Broyde’s article argues that fundamentally, cloning is a form of assisted reproduction. He suggests that cloning is “no different from artificial insemination or surrogate motherhood” and that this form of assisted reproduction should be made available those who need it (Broyde 305). Rather than drawing on analytic philosophy like Bhattacharyya, Broyde uses the American legal system to help compare his ideas for Jewish perspectives on reproductive technology. He describes that, unlike the American court system, “genetic relationship does not establish legal relationship” (Broyde 328). According to Jewish law, the gestational mother is almost always considered to be the “real” mother of the child. From here, he establishes that because the surrogate mother or gestational mother is considered to be the real mother, this directly creates a kinship issue as it then prohibits the surrogate mother from marrying any relatives of the surrogate mother. Broyde’s scientific methodology can be characterized as one that uses current Jewish laws regarding reproductive technology to address the questions of cloning and public policy.

Bhattacharyya’s methodology leads her to use comparative works from specific texts that have “significantly influenced modern ‘Western American’ thinking, namely the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament” (Bhattacharyya 56). She uses texts from the Hebrew Bible and Roman Catholicism to serve as guidelines for comparison in order to drive her own opinions regarding Hindu perspectives on reproductive technology in India. Most notably, she asserts that “in the Hebrew bible and New Testament, though humans are involved, God is ultimately in control of human procreation” (Bhattacharyya 58), immediately comparing this to the notion that in the Mahabharata, gods and humans are often co-equals in the procreative process. She uses the Church’s belief that “the soul is infused into the embryo at the moment of conception” (Bhattacharyya 62) to assert that the Church views IVF, ZIFT, and other reproductive technologies as “destroyed ensouled zygotes”. She ultimately uses the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church to draw a sharp contrast of how these beliefs do not find their equivalent within Hinduism. Instead, she uses what she refers to as the “six key elements of Hindu thought” to underline the construction of Hindu ethic with respect to reproductive technology.

Although Broyde and Bhattacharyya take vastly different approaches to the exploration of reproductive technologies, I believe they would share similar perspectives with respect to the dilemmas of prenatal testing. Because Broyde explains that “reproductive technologies are neither prohibited nor permissible in the eyes of Jewish law, but rather subject to a case-by-case analysis” (Broyde 295), I believe he would advocate for the same mentality with respect to prenatal testing. Throughout his work, Broyde revisits the Jewish obligation for man “to be fruitful and multiply” and because possible consequences of prenatal testing may include termination of the pregnancy, Broyde might be hesitant to assert that rabbinical authorities would be accepting of such technology. However, Broyde may also add that “moral conservatism is an objective morality and not everything that humanity wants or can do is proper,” ultimately arguing that God is the only power that can dictate such decisions regarding the state or health of the child (Broyde 303). Similarly, because Bhattacharyya describes Hinduism as a collection of different voices and ideas, I believe she would subscribe to a comparable perspective regarding prenatal testing. She would most likely suggest that prenatal testing is an example of a “case-by-case” situation that must take into account the different “Hindu voices” as well as resonate with the six key elements of Hinduism she outlines: centrality of societal good, belief in the unity of all life, dharma, the multivalent nature of Hindu traditions, karma, and commitment to do no harm (ahimsa). Prenatal testing would most likely fall under the elements of dharma and karma. The decision to engage in prenatal testing would follow the action of dharma, while the decision to take responsibility for that action would fall under the element of karma. Essentially, the decision for a mother to partake in prenatal testing would not be dictated by a Hindu law, but would be left to the individual to decide and take responsibility for that action.

Both texts are clearly intended for different audiences and thus, take vastly different approaches to the subject of reproductive technology. While Bhattacharyya draws on analogies she makes from the Mahabharata as the foundation for her creation of the Hindu principles regarding bioethics and reproductive technologies, Broyde uses the normative Jewish laws that help frame his discussion for reproductive cloning. Ultimately, with the rise of reproductive technology and its increasing usage, it is important to recognize and characterize such differences in order to gain cultural competence in order to understand its effect on kinship and society as a whole.

 

Swasti Bhattacharya, Magical Progeny, Modern Technology: A Hindu Bioethics of Reproductive Technology (Suny University Press, 2006).

Michael J. Broyde, “Modern Reproductive Technologies and Jewish Law,” In Michael J. Broyde and Michael Ausubel editors, Marriage, Sex and the Family in Judaism. (Rowman and Littlefield, 2005), pp. 295-328