Blog Post #2 by Jemimah Kim

Many questions regarding the ethicality of reproductive technology continue to arise with the increased utilization of and desires for such processes. Though some may argue that decisions of ethicality and legality towards these procedures should be determined independently of religious influence, many scholars, religious leaders, and individuals continue to produce evidence as support or opposition towards such technology (Bhattacharyya 6). We were given two texts that address the topic of reproductive technology from differing religious perspectives. Through her Magical Progeny, Modern Technology: A Hindu Bioethics of Reproductive Technology, Swasti Bhattacharyya pioneers the topic of new reproductive technologies specifically from a Hindu perspective. It has been difficult to declare ethical stances for this religion because of its differing origins and mass of religious texts and stories. Bhattacharyya describes Hinduism as a conglomerate that “has no Pope or Magisterium, no central, overarching authority figure or governing body” (Bhattacharyya xvi). The lack of central, concrete sources of information have made it difficult for scholars to form a collective response to the religion’s perspective on certain topics such as in vitro fertilization. The term “Hindu” can describe a community geographically and religiously, thus revealing “fluid boundaries between various categories and internal diversity among official, unofficial, orthodox, and popular expression of Hinduism” (Bhattacharyya 20). Michael Broyde’s “Modern Reproductive Technologies and Jewish Law” addresses the reproductive technology of cloning from the standpoint of Jewish law. This text was written through the view of a religion that has strong fundamental understandings of the religious laws that are relatively uniform throughout the communities that practice it.

Key differences between the approach of Broyde and Bhattacharya towards reproductive technology is foremost apparent through their intended audiences and purpose for writing their perspective texts. Bhattacharya incorporates ethnographical recounts from Hindu patients as well as her experience as a student, nurse, and Hindu practicer into her book, giving it a more personal and open approach (Bhattacharyya 8). Her intended audience could possibly be Hindu followers considering artificial reproductive technologies. She does not claim religious authority but rather makes claims argumentatively. Broyde, however, is more direct with his approach and leaves little room for interpretation. He employs direct connection with his claims to Jewish law, or halakhah, which has been developed and applied within the Jewish community for over fifty years (Broyde 11). Broyde provides many examples for further clarification of the Jewish law but besides these, he is very clear on the circumstances and bioethical stances in accordance with written passages and Jewish law. For example, Broyde addresses the Talmud when considering the “humanness” of an artificial anthropoid (golem) in reference to cloning, eventually concluding that they are considered to be human and cannot be killed according to religious law.

The purpose of writing for both authors seems to differ as well. Broyde influences authoritatively and focuses his writing on the permissibility of cloning and the familial status of the resulting individual (Broyde 296). Bhattacharyya’s approach focuses more on making connections between passed down mythical stories that are well-known among Hindu followers. More specifically, a majority of Bhattaryya’s claims have been derived from connections to Mahabharata narratives (Bhattacharyya 28). For example, she argues that Hinduism places higher significance on the results of reproduction rather than the process of getting there, and she does this by referencing religious narratives that exemplify the creative ways of procreation from divine figures (Bhattacharyya 56). Alternatively, Broyde uses religious texts but also does so in indirect ways by referencing established Jewish law in addition to popular religious figures within the Jewish community, such as Rabbi Bleich in the case of Jewish surrogacy (Broyde 302). Though Broyde was able to reference such things as evidence and support because of the universal beliefs shared among most Jewish members. Overall, the two authors differed in their approaches to explaining religious perspectives on reproductive technology because of their intended audiences, purposes, and the type of resources available and accepted by the majority of the religious communities.

Though differences between the proposed religious perspectives can be partially attributed to the methodology of the authors, I believe that a majority of the differences are ultimately the results of the fundamental beliefs and structures of the two faiths. Hinduism more specifically appears to be more difficult to pinpoint perspectives on issues because of its existence as a religion made by encompassing the beliefs of a whole region. Hinduism lacks a “fixed and formal doctrine concerning any matter,” thus there is neither an insistence or an objection to the use of artificial reproductive technologies (Bhattacharyya 53). Bhattacharyya formulated her argument on well-known religious texts, and did so through her personal, open-ended interpretation of the text and her personal experiences as a practicer. Although she did have contributions from mentors and other Hindu followers, the potential for bias in their collective interpretations is very likely due to their shared interactions and residence in similar communities. In other words, there is a large chance that the presented interpretations and connections of the Mahabharata narratives do not align with those in other countries or even different parts of the United States because of the nature of the Hindu religion. While there is the diaspora of the Jewish faith as well, the religion has a centralized text and establish Jewish law that Broyde can confidently reference as an essential component of a Jewish community (Broyde 11).

Furthermore, and inevitably, the content and fundamental beliefs of the religions cause a contrast between the two perspectives as well. Bhattacharyya specifically references six key elements of Hindu thought that should be addressed when considering the ethicality of artificial reproductive technologies from this religious perspective (Bhattacharyya 57). When looked at holistically, these elements emphasize the connection between the individual and their surrounding environment. For example, it is argued that the consideration of procreation and fertility, or infertility, should not be viewed as an individual issue but should instead incorporate the interests of the public as well (Bhattacharyya 81). Whereas Broyde focuses on the artificially reproduced individual or even the Jewish family unit that it is born into, Bhattacharyya claims that Hinduism examines the issue of procreation with the betterment of the society in mind as well. This emphasis can be attributed to the six key elements of Hindu belief referenced 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. The six key elements are driving factors that cause the overlap of concern regarding procreation to be between the individual and the public’s interest.

The resulting perspective of Hinduism on artificial procreation proposed by Bhattacharyya is more open-ended and less authoritative than that proposed by Broyde for the Jewish perspective. Though the manner in which they make their claims differ, their basic dependence on religious texts is undeniable because of the importance and conclusions drawn from these stories by religious communities. Bhattacharyya mentions the increasing concern for religious influence in legislative action, but she also touches upon the significance of these religious interpretations in clinical settings when individuals are directly faced with heavy decisions involving precious human lives (Bhattacharyya 7). Academic or declarative texts such as these by Bhattacharya and by Boyde are significant in the application of religious perspectives to the technologies of modern day, and it is important to continue developing and assessing these interpretations on religious perspectives, regardless of any discord that may arise from the analyses themselves.

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

– Broyde, Michael J. “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.

Blog 2-Nihu Bhardwaj

In looking at the way both authors approached reproductive technology, I think it’s important to remember that Broyde approaches Judaism from an already well-established perspective towards reproductive technology and argues certain perspectives within this. Bhattacharya, on the other hand, is trying to build up Hindu bioethics. Up until this point, there hasn’t been a defined bioethics for Hinduism, specifically one that is in the Western world or that fits the Western world’s views. Thus, in looking at the two approaches the two authors take, they seem steps behind: one is building upon something that has been built upon for centuries, while the other is starting to build the foundations for a, basically, non-existent perspective.

Nevertheless, there are other fundamental differences between their approach to reproductive technology. Broyde focuses a lot on the definition of kinship-who’s the correct mother, what about if it was the father, how would the child be considered a Jew and through whom, how could this be done so it is not problematic for any of the parties. This is something that we saw in Susan Kahn’s book on IVF in Israel. Judaism focuses a lot on making sure that a child that is born, is born properly as a Jew. Bhattacharya, on the other hand, approached reproductive technology by basing it off 6 basic Hindu principles. She uses these principles to show how they would be used in a case-to-case situation. Additionally, she used one of the texts of Hinduism to base her reasoning off. Broyde didn’t necessarily base his arguments from any scriptures, however, the ideals discussed were based off rules that had been established by interpretations of the first and second chapters of the Genesis.

There were a lot more differences between the two approaches the authors took, yet, it would be difficult to properly compare the two when Broyde is looking at reproductive technology from a specific aspect, whereas, Bhattacharya is looking at a more general perspective of it. Again, as I mentioned before, this isn’t necessarily a difference in the religions, but a difference in how well established the ideologies on this topic are. Bhattacharya is trying to make a very diverse religion into something that can be understood simply, which is very difficult. By defining these six principles, she is trying to define a set of fundamentals for the religion, as seen with Christianity and Judaism. However, that isn’t really possible. From a personal point of view, Hindus come from one God. From this God comes all beings, including the other common forms of Brahman, like Vishnu, Shiva, etc. When God comes to Earth, He takes on different forms, as seen in the Mahabharatawith Krishna (a form of Lord Vishnu). Wherever He comes, that area of India is more likely to worship that form of Him. This makes Hinduism a very diverse and complex religion. For Bhattacharya to try to put all that diversity into a box by only talking about Mahabharatais bold but terribly difficult. In a religion where there is no one set scripture, like there is with other monotheistic religions, trying to find one scripture that can be interpreted for a topic that isn’t talked about is challenging. Bhattacharya does a good job at it, however, throughout her book, it seemed like she was explaining what Hinduism was more than how it significantly differed in bioethics compared to Judaism or Christianity.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean some of the differences in reproductive technology weren’t due to religion. Judaism has a more stricter view on the use of reproductive technology than does Hinduism. The six elements of Hindu thought – emphasis on centrality of societal good, a firm belief in the underlying unity of all life, the expectation and requirements of dharam, the multivalent nature of Hindu traditions, a theory of Karma and a commitment to ahimsa- are all ideas that are not concrete; there is no one right way to interpret them. Thus, grouping things into categories is difficult. Judaism, on the other hand, has a set of principles that one needs to keep in mind and abide by when conceiving. For example, Broyde talks about whether the “process is permissible (mutar), prohibited(asur) or a good deed( mitzvah)” (Broyde 296). This is brought up when he discussed activities that were obligatory, like having 2 kids or acts that were permissible, like getting artificial insemination with sperm other than the husband’s (with his consent). Cloning, though not the best option, would be something that would be permissible. The problem comes when defining who the mother is. Here we see a fundamental difference between Hindu thought and Judaic thought. While Hindu principles seem to be up to the interpretation of the individual, for Jews, though it is case-by-case, their principles are more concrete and distinct.

In looking at a specific example of this difference, one can see this underlying distinction through motherhood. Broyde, when looking at cloning, said that motherhood could either go to the gestational mother or the clonor. He agreed with it going to the gestational mother because she was the one who had “conceived” the baby, although the clonor was genetically related to the mother. This is an idea that aligns with was discussed in Susan Kahn’s book, in regards to an IVF. Bhattacharya didn’t necessarily disagree with this idea, but she believed it depended on the situation. The first-born of Kunti, for example, was conceived and genetically-related to Kunti but he didn’t think of her as a mother-figure because she didn’t raise him. Additionally, in the Jaycee case, the surrogate parents wouldn’t be considered the parents and neither would the individuals who donated their egg/sperm; it would be John and Luanne. These two cases do align with Jewish thinking as well, if everything is planned so that the child is Jew and not related to either the husband’s family or the wife’s. Through the stories talked about by Bhattacharya, it is important that the child is related to either parent, but does not necessarily have to be from both parents if one of them cannot procreate. Nevertheless, the extra details of making sure the child is Jew and relatedness aren’t emphasized in Hinduism.

If Bhattacharya and Broyde were to discuss genetic testing, I believe it would have some similarities and differences. Bhattacharya would deal with it based on the 6 elements. If the results of the prenatal testing came back positive for something like Down’s Syndrome, not only would it be analyzed in terms of how to deal with it, but it would also be looked at to see what had the parents done through their actions or practices that they had gotten a child with problems. Using those same elements, they would then make their decision about what to do with that information, such as should the child be aborted or should the child live. If a Jew couple went through this same test with the same result, they would probably go ahead with the child because of the emphasis on having kids to fulfill your duty. Broyde would see how well it fit in with the halakhah. Both of them would agree that aborting the child would be seen as a sin. The reasoning behind each is complex, nevertheless, the common idea that life begins at conception and that having a child is part of one’s duty in life holds greater value than does (or should) the problems the child has been screened for.

After reading Bhattacharya’s work, it was interesting to see how she was trying to fit Hindu bioethics into Christian and Jewish bioethics.  By attempting to westernize Hindu principles, she was able to build a basis for bioethics. However, it was a very broad base that was very similar to Christian and Jewish ones. While she was trying to show how straightforward and simple their bioethics was, she was also trying to simplify Hindu’s bioethics by attempting to mimic it. This is seen through her use of one scripture, as well as defining a set of thoughts/principles that guide Hindu decisions. Through defining Hinduism as a very interpretive religion, it’s important to recognize that all religions can be interpreted in different ways. Broyde’s work helped emphasize this point by looking at the rules we see in Judaism on who the rightful parents, which depended interpretation of who the rightful mother or mothers are. Additionally, by looking specifically at Roman Catholicism, it diminishes the broadness of the Christian view to a specific, orthodox sect. So, while her work attempts to show Hindu bioethics like the Western religions, it is done at the expense of a more constrained view on all 3 religions.

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.

Jack Hester – Blog 2

In addition to participant observation, there are other methods of understanding a religion or culture’s guiding principles for life and decision making. This extends into bioethics. Both Bhattacharya and Broyde use texts traditional and central to the religion to guide their discussions of bioethics. Though there are several obvious differences between the structure of Hindu narratives and the Bible, it is important to note that “Though the Mahabharata does not share the canonical status of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament… it is a formative text for India and many within Hinduism” (56). More specifically, Bhattacharya largely focuses on stories and narratives from the documents, while Broyde incorporates more specific laws and highly scientific descriptions of fertility treatments and technologies that are prevalent in bioethics conversations.

Furthermore, there is overlap in the goals of the books. Bhattacharya aims to both “inform and to enrich the ongoing bioethical dialogue concerning assisted reproductive technology and to increase the cultural/religious awareness and sensitivity of the healthcare team” especially in relation to incorporating Hindu culture (2). Futhermore, Bhattacharya notes, “By utilizing [the] ancient epic as a source for ethics and exploring how it deals with issues relating to the challenges of having children, we obtain a unique and relevant entry point into the central sacred teachings of the Hindu traditions [and] by working from within the narrative, we participate in and contribute to articulating… ‘Hindu’ dialogue” (3). In addition, Bhattacharya comments on the frequent lack of consideration of Hindu principles in medical care.

Broyde similarly describes his purpose for the chapter: “This chapter is an attempt to create a preliminary and tentative analysis of the technology of cloning from a Jewish law perspective… as an attempt to outliner some of the issues in the hope that others will focus on the problems and analysis found in this chapter and will sharpen or correct those evaluations. Such is the way that Jewish law seeks truth” (Broyde 295). While the religions are very different and the documents that each author focuses on are very different, there is an overlap in desire to further analyze and contribute to bioethical discussions and add new perspectives. These additions might be useful to caregivers, academics, and policy makers (and perhaps even patients that are exposed to the literature).

Both authors list several principles they deem potentially important when creating a bioethics framework. Bhattacharya lists six key principles: “1) An emphasis on the centrality of societal good; 2) a firm belief in the underlying unity of all life (Advaita Vendanta); 3) the expectations and requirements of dharma; 4) the multivalent nature of Hindu traditions; 5) a theory of kharma; and 6) a commitment to ahimsa (no harm)” (63). While some of these principles have more obvious implications for specific bioethical decisions, the author lays out a list of key values that can slowly be incorporated in different and unique ways, and which can expose healthcare workers or ethicists to fundamental ideas patients may come in with.  Within these principles likes a general theme of duty to fulfill a role, which often includes childbearing, and kid treatment of children. Broyde also provides guidelines for making decisions on fertility and reproductive technologies such as cloning. There are five general principles to take into consideration: activity that is obligatory (mitzvah hiyyuvi), Activity that is commendable but not obligatory (mitzvah kiyumi), Activity that is permissible (mutar), ctivity that is discouraged but not prohibited (bittul mitzva), and Activity that is prohibited (asur)” (Broyde 309). These principles embody Jewish law and culture. When considering a reproductive technology in a Jewish context, it is necessary to consider Biblical or Hebrew law and the roles of the individuals involved in the creation of a new human. While these guiding rules are not quite as immediately open to new technologies as Hindu beliefs may appear based on popular narratives, there is still room to consider them as potentially legitimate, especially in special circumstances.

Even with very different texts as the backdrop for analysis, there are beliefs that are shared between the two cultures and religions. For example, even though some reproductive technologies are regarded differently in Jewish culture and occasionally not permitted, women in the Bible often adjust their situations to facilitate childbirth and having a family (Bhattacharya 57), and many technologies are allowed in both Hinduism and Judaism due to the high value on family and perhaps even duty to have children. For example, “Hindu texts reflect a respect for the developing fetal life and argue that it is deserving of protection from harm” (86). Though, as mentioned, Hindu thought is likely more immediately open to new technologies, it is still careful to actually evaluate the technology over time and both cultures emphasize the idea that “some caution is advised” no matter what the new technology is (Broyde 315).

Overall, the two books are different for two main reasons. First, they have slightly different objectives and methods; implications of widely known narratives versus dissection of strongly religious texts. Second, and more critically, they are representing different religions and cultures. In addition, the Broyde piece explained the technology of concern, mainly cloning, in great detail (297-298). This was not as prevalent in Bhattacharya’s article. But there was still a strong overlap in emphasis on consideration of children and family obligation, as well as proper treatment of all people.

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

Sindoos Awel – Scholar Blog 2

Upon reading the works of Michael Broyde and Swasti Bhattacharyya on paradigms of thought and rationalization on reproductive technologies, I was able to gain an understanding of how religious texts make for foundational bioethics. These texts help us navigate a religious perspective on these technologies. There were some key differences that I noticed between the works of Bhattacharyya and Broyde; for instance, there was fundamental differences in methods and texts used as referential material.

Bhattacharya uses the Mahabharata, which is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Broyde uses Jewish law, which is built upon the Torah. The Torah has narratives and so does the Mahabharata, but the Torah also contains commandments, statements of laws, statements of ethics, and other scripture that is essentially a universal doctrine for Jews. The Mahabharata does not hold that type of weight among the Hindu community and is not as universal. Additionally, Christianity and Judaism has had a role in foundational bioethics that Hinduism did not have simply because Christianity and Judaism also function as powerful institutions in Western society (Bhattacharya 28) . This is a fundamental difference between Hinduism and Judaism that influences the Western understanding of bioethics. Bhattacharya argues that until recently, North American ideologies on issues involving reproductive technologies such as infertility have been “primarily shaped by concepts and beliefs grounded in traditional Jewish and Christian perspectives” (Bhattacharya 12).

Beyond differences in power and influence, there are also differences in religious structure such as the idea of scholars and officials that have a certain amount of power and say within the Jewish community, while this sort of position does not exist in Hinduism. Broyde highlights this structure as a fundamental aspect of Jewish law. He notes that Jewish law recognizes the rabbinical authorities of every generation to have final declarations on what is permissible and what is not (Broyde 508), which is how decisions on reproductive technologies were/are made.

Another notable difference is how Broyde and Bhattacharya use the religious texts they focus on. Bhattacharya made it very clear that she is not claiming authority as a religious institution of Hinduism with her writing on reproductive technologies. She was simply aligning narratives from the Mahabharata with common themes of kinship and reproduction that is discussed in Jewish and Christian bioethics. Therefore she uses subjects such as infertility, paternal surrogacy, sperm donation from Jewish and Christian bioethics, but uses cosmology and stories of kinship to illustrate portrayals of those subjects in Hinduism. For instance, the story about the royal families, the Pandavas and Kauravas, demonstrated the difficulties of having sons when the women could not reproduce (Bhattacharya 46). By using examples such as those, I agree with Dr. Seeman that her role with this text is to be an “authoritative interpreter.” Additionally, when looking at the language Bhattacharya uses compared to the language Broyde uses, Broyde uses more authoritative language. Although Broyde acknowledges that Jewish law inspects new reproductive technologies on a case by case analysis, (Broyde 504) he states exact conclusions on specific technologies such as cloning. He presents both perspectives clearly on cloning: the moral conservatism perspective and one of Jewish obligation (Broyde 504). Broyde is able to do this since he can fall back on Jewish law and Jewish institutions that abide by these proclamations, which means a majority of Jews probably do as well.

Another distinct difference Bhattacharyya highlighted was views of religious and societal figures in themes of kinship and reproduction. For instance, in Judaism (and Christianity) God is viewed as a figure with ultimate control and power when it comes to procreation (Bhattacharya 70). The traditional uses of prayer are directed to God in religious narratives such as the story of Sarah and Abraham, when Sarah gave birth at age 90, which also reflects God’s ability grant Sarah the ability to give birth when she shouldn’t have been able to due to menopause. There is also a special relationship between God and women as God enables women and they usually take more initiative when it comes to praying for children. While in Hinduism, Bhattacharyya highlights that there is a coequal existence with God (Bhattacharyya 62).

I believe that most of differences when discussing religious perspectives on reproductive technologies is due to the specific methodology that I highlighted earlier, but I definitely believe that differences between Hinduism and Judaism contribute to these differences as well. Bhattacharyya acknowledges that there is no governing body within Hinduism that can make proclamations about bioethics and that defining Hindu ethic would be impossible (Bhattacharyya 16) and also problematic. However, she does believe that the characteristics of Hindu thought should be essential aspect of Hindu bioethics, which makes sense since these characteristics describe how all aspects of life including reproduction should be approached by most Hindus. While Jewish law distinguishes these ethics very specifically within reproductive technologies even to the point of labeling who would be the legal mother of a child in the case of cloning (the gestational mother) (Broyde 511).

When looking at contemporary bioethics and considering technologies that are controversial today like prenatal testing, I believe that Broyde would approach this by the law that when no other method is available, Jewish law allows for a certain reproductive technology (Broyde 533). By using this approach, I thought that prenatal testing might be viewed as supplementary and therefore prohibited, however, I realized I was mistaken upon doing some research. An article published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) stated that genetic screening is permissible if used for treatment, cure, or prevention of disease (Rosner). As for Bhattacharyya, I believe that since she too would consider prenatal testing permissible, because, as discussed in class, she has rationalized secular bioethics well by using the Mahabharata.

By investigating these two works, I was able to begin to understand Hindu thought and Jewish law more in its applications with reproductive technologies. This was my initial exposure with both religious texts, but through reading these works I better understood how Jewish law was built upon Judaism as an institution which has more influence and power within Western society compared to Hinduism. Although there were some obvious differences between the two works and their approaches to reproductive technologies, being able to understand how influential Judaism (and Christianity) was in establishing Bhattacharyya’s understanding of HIndu bioethics demonstrated how deeply rooted religion is in fundamental aspects of bioethics.

 

Bhattacharyya, Swasti. Magical Progeny, Modern Technology a Hindu Bioethics of Assisted Reproductive Technology. Albany: State U of New York, 2006. Print.

 

Broyde, M. “Cloning People: A Jewish Law Analysis of the Issues.” Connecticut Law Review 30.2 (1998): 503-35. Web.

Rosner, F. “Judaism, Genetic Screening and Genetic Therapy.” The Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine, New York 65.5-6 (1998): 406-13. Print.

Blog 2 – James Pittinger

In Magical Progeny, Modern Technology: A Hindu Bioethics of Reproductive Technology, Bhattacharya seems to be very well versed on the topic at hand, as she worked in a clinical setting in New York as well has also earned a doctorate in Hindu Bioethics. Typically, when creating a stance on bioethics based on a religion, the first source a person turns to is a Holy text, such as The Bible, The Torah, or the Quran. In the Hindu faith, there is no one true holy text, so Bhattacharya turns to the Mahabharata and relates her ethics to the story of how three queens overcame infertility to provide heirs to the kingdom. In 4 she boils Hindu down to six main factors that provide a basis for Hindu Bioethics. This book has a more of a virtue ethics approach that is based on character formation instead of a decision making approach.

While Bhattacharya speaks to traditional reproduction. Broyde writes upon the stance of Judaism on cloning. In Judaism, the code of law is called Halakah, and on page 296 Broyde breaks down three of the main subcategories of acceptable actions / goods: mutar, asur, and mitzvah. These mean permissible, prohibited and good deed, respectively. Broyde rarely if at all interjects opinion and sticks to the objective Jewish law. He constantly brings up questions of legal guardianship such as who is the mother of a clone? Can there be two? In his conclusion he has 2 different stances depending on if the clone is of a male or a female. For a male, it is a Jewish mandate to be fruitful and multiply, so as a sort of last resort cloning of a male is mitzvah, a good thing. For a female, on the other hand, it is considered neutral. It would be interesting to see other religions opinions on cloning as we have leaned not ever religion interprets “be fruitful and multiply” as a command rather as a guiding principle (Genesis 1:28)

When it comes to comparing methodologies, it’s hard to say with complete confidence that the differences in methodologies are the only contributing factors. Like Emerynn said in her post, even with in the same religion, there are many different sects and sub-sections of a religion with different interpretations of the same words. The methodologies differ between Bhattacharya and Broyde, I think the largest differences are cultural, which is often a direct or indirect reflection of religion. When comparing western Abrahamic religions such as Christianity or Judaism to Hindu bioethics, we see it to be quite difficult. Hindu is a conglomerate of different beliefs and then centered on a geographical location, modern day India. In modern western civilization there are usually codes or laws that people obey, whether they be ethical or legal, these codes usually come from a religious background of a holy text. In Hindu, as mentioned earlier, there is no one holy text that sprouted the religion. What Bhattacharya did was essentially put Hinduism in a frame or template that was cut from western religious stances on bioethics.

One thing that many people have already touched on is the importance of looking at cases on an individual basis and not making generalizations. I believe both Bhattacharya and Broyde would agree. Broyde would most likely base his decisions on the impact of the kin, or the closest family members, such as how much of a burden would this place on those who are around the child with possible disabilities. On the other hand, Bhattacharya would run the idea of amniocentesis through her sixpoint checklist. Some of these main ideas are centered around the idea of Karma, Ahimsa, and Cosmic order. Which begs another ethical question is it better, in a cosmic sense, to terminate a pregnancy or being a child with possible sever disabilities into this world?

 

Sources:

Book of Genesis, chapters 1.

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. (e-reserve)

Blog 2: Ira Golub

Even in today’s world, the differences that remain apparent among people simply based on choice of religion are astounding. One’s religious identity can completely define who they are and what they believe in. Within the (very) specific lens of assisted reproductive technology, a facet of Bioethics, potential lines of thought can reflect religious roots that trace back to the very narratives that shaped religions. The modernization of these thoughts show consideration of the ancient origins throughout them. With two works on this matter in particular, both Michael J. Broyde’s Modern Reproductive Technologies and Jewish Law,and Magical Progeny, Modern Technologyby Swasti Bhattacharyya, there are differences that are quite noteworthy. While Broyde’s piece, which recognizes material from Jewish law (Halakhah), focuses more on approach to reproductive technology from the perspective of Judaism, Bhattacharyy attempts to construct a bioethical code for Hinduism, which is a field that was yet to be previously explored before her time.

Initially, Bhattacharyy and Broyde do not even attempt to pull their interpretations and bioethical conclusions from the same genres of work, as each explore essentially unrelated types of historical record. The basis for most of Bhattacharyy’s writing comes from the Mahabharata, an ancient Indian epic poem that was considered to be created after the ancient Vedascriptures. This text falls into the category of ‘traditional literature’ according to the author. She writes, “Smrti [traditional literature] literally means ‘recollection,’ but it is used practically to signify ‘tradition.’ This traditional literature ‘is the set of rules for acts of dharma[cosmic order] that are not explicitly declared by sruti[sacred texts with no orirign], but are implicitly derivable from it.’” (Bhattacharyy Location 443). Bhattacharyy is inferring that although these texts do hold weigh in Hinduism, they are more stories of recollection than they are of creation or the religion’s Cosmology. Contrarily, Broyde approaches his views by way of Halakhah, or Jewish law. This derivative of thought is more fluid in a sense, and less defined than historically recorded recollections such as the Mahabharata. Broyde notes, “… even when conduct is permissible or perhaps even a mitzvah [good deed], Jewish law recognizes that the (rabbinical) authorities of every generation have the authroity to temporarily prohibit that which is permissible based on the perception that this intrinsically permissible activity could lead to other, serious violations” (Broyde 296). By this token, Broyde is essentially quoting a source that is perpetually being updated as time progresses, and for all intents and purposes, is situational. The keen differences between these two works from which both authors derive their arguments are important when understanding their texts, both separately and in cohesion.

Although the differences in both Bhattacharyy and Broyde’s stances on bioethics are clear, the roots of those differences come from open interpretations of not only the style of texts they are drawing their conclusions from, but also the religious background of each of these religions themselves. Broyde is quick to break down acts in Judaism to three basic levels of acceptability: permissible (mutar), prohibited (asur), or a good deed (mitzvah) [Broyde 296]. Oppositely, Battacharyy focuses on storylines and six key characteristics of Hinduism: the centrality of society & underlying unity of all life, the flexibility of Dharma and multiplicity of Hindu practices, Karma, and finally Ahimsa. The very constructive frameworks through which each author writes are fundamentally different – they are essentially comparing interpretations based on two differing fields of literature. Additionally, there are key differences between Hinduism and Judaism to begin with, such as Jewish monotheistic practices versus Hindu polytheism & multiple deities, and the histories of each religion as their peoples mostly populated separate areas of the world. In addition to this, it is important to note that Battacharyy writes her work in light multiple other Judeo-Christian on the matter, acknowledging various works throughout her book, whereas Broyde is mostly using Judaism and its set of laws as the focal point for the basis of his argument.

Interestingly enough, Battacharyy and Broyde do seem to have some similar views on the prenatal stage of human life, in the sense that they both encourage respect and care for the offspring. Battacharyy, citing Hindu texts and Cambridge professor Julius Lipner, is able to draw the conclusion, “… Hindu texts reflect a respect for the developing fetal life and argue that it is deserving of protection from harm” The fetus is conscious and even has a memory of his or her previous births” (Location 1312). She is clear with her implications here – even in the prenatal stage of human life, a person deserves respect, and to be treated well, abiding by the principles of Ahimsa (non-harm). In an analogous way, words from Broyde on cloning can be interpreted in the same fashion regarding those that are birthed with defects that would be potentially uncovered prenatally. He writes, “I am hard-pressed to find any rational Jewish law argument that could justify the categorization of a person produced through cloning as not human… the absence of a human parent does not necessarily make one nonhuman – and a clone (of current technology) clearly as a mother at the very least” (Broyde 313). By this token, Broyde is inferring that having a (human) mother is a key characteristic of being human. Evidently, it could be argued that his statement can be further interpreted as saying a human with a mother, even if the human is in a prenatal state, is still is considered human. Both authors do not seem to directly respond to the concept of prenatal testing, but both have outlined clear assumptions regarding their specific interpretations of the texts they have studied, each suggesting that human life does have some value even before that human in birthed.

 

Sources:

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.

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

Kyra Perkins Blog 2

Is it possible to separate the study of medicine and the study of religion? Or, are the two so closely related that they become inseparable? Today, the common idea is to separate religion from medicine. The idea that you should focus on science and not religion is the standard that those who practice medicine tend to live by. However, in most cultures, medicine and religion are so intrinsically linked that you must be a master in both to understand either. In some cultures, a religious shaman performs healing rituals meant to remove bodily illness with a spiritual remedy. In America, although we profess to separate religion from other decisions, it is linked to both our culture and our decision making. Many of our laws and moral debates start with religious ideas. For example, many people who are against gay marriage argue that it goes again the Bible. Is this the same in medicine?

In Bhattacharya’s novel, “Magical Progeny, Modern Technology: A Hindu Bioethics of Reproductive Technology”, she starts off by discussing the influence of Christianity and Judaism in the American medical field. Specifically, when discussing bioethics, religious figures and institutions played a major role in the formation of the field “by helping to create various bioethics institutes such as the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University and The Institute for the Study of Society, Ethics, and Life Sciences, now known as the Hastings Center in New York. Many Christian theologians and philosophers were also the primary contributors to the first edition of the Encyclopedia of Bioethics.”                 However, she then discusses the marginalization of religion in bioethics as the field progressed. The interesting thing to note is that while those who practice medicine try to separate religion they somehow manage to take a patient’s religious views very seriously.

Bhattacharya later states “Eliminating religion often leads to an unwarranted dependence on law as a source of morality. Legality is not equivalent to morality; an action may be legal but not necessarily moral or correct. Additionally, an emphasis on secularism can also be oppressive in that it can require individuals to pretend that their private lives and beliefs do not spill over into the public realm”. It is very clear that religion had an influence on her study and that may not necessarily be a negative. When discussing assisted reproductive technologies, she compares the Hindu views with those of Judaism and Catholicism. Based on this study and the approach Bhattacharya took, she would support the use of assisted reproductive technologies for women who can’t have children. She discussed that women must be mothers to be considered a complete woman and in order to be considered a secure with her husband. Culturally and religiously it is in a woman’s best interest to do all she can to become pregnant.

In a similar since, Boyde states that American law is free from ethics. He does not state whether this is a positive or negative. Instead, he juxtaposes how Jewish law and American law would look at the same issue. He spends a good amount of time discussing cloning and assisted reproductive technologies from both the American legal and Jewish legal views. American legal and Jewish legal views don’t necessarily contradict. Boyde proves that they just look at different problems in the same issue. While American law looks at who donated sperm as the true father, Jewish law considers the male figure who actually takes care of and raises the child. For example, if a family were to adopt a child, the man whose sperm created the child would be considered the legal father of the child until he gives up his parental rights. However, in Jewish law, the man who adopted the child would be considered the “legal” father in the eyes of the religion regardless of whose DNA was used to actually create the child. This slight difference in the reading of fatherhood and many others allow for vastly different interpretations of reproductive problems and how to solve them.

Jewish law, which Boyde used for his study, is a monotheistic religion with a holy book with the laws and structures set in place to guide those who practice that religion. Hinduism, on the other hand, is a polytheistic religion. It has no specific or strict set of laws. Bhattacharya uses history and stories common to the religion to determine common themes and ideas about birth and womanhood in Hinduism. Bhattacharya references the stories of 3 different women. One of which was dealing with a curse. She hoped to get the curse removed in order to be able to bear children with her husband. Boyde looked more at how specific Jewish laws would evaluate issues related to child birth such as cloning, adoption, and sperm donation.

Although the methodologies are very different, I do believe that both authors would come to the same conclusion. They would both, based on methodology and the studies presented in both novels, support women using assisted reproductive technologies to get pregnant. The difference would come in the reasons for the using of these technologies and what it means for the fetus. Boyde’s studies looked at the kinship relationship between parents who raise the children and parents who donated the actual DNA that led to the creation of the child. Therefore, Boyde focuses more on the child. In contrast, Bhattacharya focuses more on the mother’s emotional and mental wellbeing from a religious view.

Blog 2- Monica Vemulapalli

Swasti Bhattacharya dedicates the book Magical Progeny, Modern Technologyto bioethics using a Hindu perspective, while Broyde writes about cloning in his work Modern Reproductive Technologies and Jewish Law using a Jewish perspective.

Within Bhattacharya’s work, she mainly relies on interpretations of theMahabharata, an epic narrativethat is widespread across the realm of Hinduism, to discuss the bioethical nature of assistive reproductive technology. However, the Mahabharataisn’t a centralized sacred text that is studied by every Hindu, as opposed to the Torah or the Bible, an important difference to note between her work and Broyde’s work. In this blog, I will thoroughly examine the main principles that Bhattacharya discusses, as it is imperative in order to understand her Hindu perspective that she presents. It is important to note, however, that Bhattacharya’s perspective should not be misunderstood as “the” Hindu perspective, but one of many Hindi perspectives. She constructs her own views using the context of several sacred texts, which involve six themes stemming from Hinduism. Along with discussing the principles outlined, Broyde’s work on cloning can be used compare and contrast in terms of already established religious and traditional Jewish law. Broyde provides a thorough analysis on cloning, whether it is permissible, and the conclusion that he comes to on the basis of familial status of clone and Jewish standards. These distinct works give insight into very diverse, yet some surprisingly comparable views of utilizing assistive reproductive technologies.

Bhattacharya highlights six main elements, in Chapter 4 of her book, that showcase the main aspects of Hinduism used to understand views on assistive reproductive technologies. We will examine these elements individually, while utilizing Broyde’s book as a resource to provide us with religious comparison and outside perspective into Bhattacharya’s list. The first element discusses how one needs to put the society’s needs above personal goals. The example Bhattacharya uses from the Mahabharatais using a “divine sperm donor” as opposed to a “human sperm donor,” and Kunti and Pandu choose Dharma, a god of merit and “the cosmic judge” in order to act acceptably within society as Dharma would not do anything unlawful. Therefore, we can see that even in using reproductive technology, the consideration of what society will think and what is right is maintained. There is a similarity within Judaism as Broyde states “the general Jewish obligation to help those who are in need, and particularly compounded by the specific obligation to reproduce, thus inclining one to permit advances in reproductive technologies that allow those unable to reproduce, to, in fact reproduce. On the other side is the general inherent moral conservatism associated with the Jewish tradition’s insistence that there is an objective, God-given morality, and that not everything that humanity wants or can do is proper” (296). What Broyde says is consistent with the dilemma that Kunti and Pandu had when choosing sperm donors, but also wanting to fulfill their duty to bear children. We can see a similarity where Hindu and Jewish views show that there is a central need to help society, but also to believe in tradition.

The second element that Bhattacharya highlights, “the underlying unity of all life,” is difficult to use to interpret the view on reproductive technologies. This principle unity emphasizes an interconnectedness and “how the world, humans, gods, animals, plants, and everything else comes forth from a cosmic primeval being, Purusa.” This is similar, yet still different from Jewish scriptures, as God created the heavens and the Earth, according to the Book of Genesis.In Judaism and Catholicism, the cosmic power is God himself, not a primeval being, an entity from the earliest of time, predating “God” in Hinduism, who created Gods . To understand views on reproductive technology, the cosmology and religious component forms a basis for how the world is viewed in terms of creation.

The third element, dharma, is a central element to Hinduism, translating roughly to duty. Yet, the power and significance that dharma has in Hinduism cannot be emphasized enough. Childbearing and reproduction are thought of as a form of dharma, or to fulfill societal expectations.  In the Mahabharata, Pandu realizes that if he’s childless, he cannot fulfill his dharma. Therefore, Pandu and Kunti proceed to have children through other means, but only after assuring themselves their actions are seen legitimate by the society as that they are acting according to dharma, by God and in their duties within society. (69) On one hand, they need to fulfill dharma, but to do that, they need to deviate from the normal societal expectations to have children as Kunti needs to find another man to father her child. In the end, they fulfill their dharma within society, even if through a different form of reproduction. There is no true equivalent of “dharma” in Jewish scripture, but there lies a central importance placed on reproduction. The Book of Genesis explicitly states “to be fruitful and multiply,” and as Broyde states in his conclusion, “the fulfillment of the biblical mandate to conquer the earth (ve-khivshuha) is understood in the Jewish tradition as permitting people to modify—conquer—nature to make it more amenable to its inhabitants, people. Cloning is but one example of that conquest, which when used to advance humanity, is without theological problem in the Jewish tradition.” (317) Broyde justifies cloning as a means of fulfilling the expectation to reproduce, a statement written in the sacred text that Jews follow, even if it’s not the typical way. Hence, we can see that in both religions, reproduction is sacred, and using assisted reproductive technology to foster humankind is seen as permissible within reasonable terms.

The fourth element, the multivalent nature of Hindu traditions, can be explained as the flexibility and malleability of life and society. There is not one tradition, one law that is stated in Hinduism due to circumstances and individual adaptiveness. Broyde also states something similar, in my opinion, – When looking at Jewish views based on Broyde’s work, he says that “Jewish law insists that new technologies—and new reproductive technologies in particular—are neither definitionally prohibited nor definitionally permissible in the eyes of Jewish law, but rather are subject to a case-by-case analysis. (295). Broyde expresses the view that there is not an authoritative answer to using reproductive technology, but it depends. Bhattacharya might not be saying the exact viewpoint in terms of reproductive technologies, as Broyde is talking directly about this, but she also acknowledges the fact that there is not a specific judgement, that every circumstance is different in the realm of Hinduism and its traditions. The reason for no one judgement stems from there not being a central authority in Hinduism, as compared to Catholicism, where the Holy Bible and the Pope hold paramount importance, and Judaism, where the Torah does the same. There is no central sacred text that Hindus follow apart from several religious scriptures, which still does not equate to the Bible or Torah, hence the numerous sources and multivalent nature.

The fifth element, karma, contrary to stereotypical understanding, means action. Bhattacharya states that “According to the Mahabharata, everyone, regardless of gender, social status, or philosophical commitment, is subject to the constraints of karma; all will reap the fruits of the seeds planted by their actions.” (71) In the context of assisted reproductive technologies, Bhattacharya points out that “acting in the present can transform he current and future course of karma. Kunti, Madri, and Gandhari all took decisive actions that altered the course of their situations regarding having children.” She uses the examples of the three queens and their reproductive difficulties to say that they took action to fulfill their childbearing duties. Similarly, Broyde states that there is a qualification of the action that a Jew does in society, however the familial status also plays a pivotal role in the conduct. He says that “whether the cloning process is permissible (mutar), prohibited (asur), or a good deed (mitzvah). However, the determination of whether any particular conduct is good, back, or neutral is not dispositive in addressing the second issue: the familial status of an individual (re)produced through cloning in relationship to other humans generally…” (296). Even though karma and the Jewish qualifications of action are not identical, we can see them as each religion promoting certain actions to usually reward reproduction.

Broyde addresses not only the classification of cloning, but also the main dilemma after deciding to clone to be the status of the family. He comes to conclusion that “the vast majority of Jewish law authorities rule that children produced through other than sexual means are the legal children of the inseminator, and indeed such activity is considered a positive religious activity (a mitzvah)—a good deed” (301). Broyde argues throughout the section of the permissibility of cloning in the context of Jewish law as it “views cloning as far less the ideal way to reproduce people, however, when no other method is available, it would appear that Jewish law accepts that having children through cloning is a mitzvah in a number of circumstances and is morally neutral in a number of other circumstances.” (315) In addition, examining cloning through a Hindu lens, Bhattacharya states that “in regard to fetal stem cell research and cloning, the Hindu belief in the underlying unity of all life acknowledges the sanctity of fetal life, of all life..” (107) The principle of unity is used to discuss the possibility of cloning as Broyde discusses.

The final aspect of Hindu bioethics that Bhattacharya uses as guidelines for usage of assistive reproductive technology is the commitment to ahimsa, or no-harm. Bhattacharya says that this concept relates to the other five elements as “by acting in the spirit of ahimsa, one is acting in a manner that would most likely support the good of society and positively affect one’s dharma and karma.” (74) Bhattacharya also highlights the dynamic state of life as ahmisa and the other values are malleable in each situation. When compiling all of these concepts together, she states that “while biology and social status are not insignificant, of greater importance are those who intend to take on the parental dharmic responsibilities.” (96) She expresses that dharma and the duty to have a child is an important factor in general when discussing form of reproduction that results in a fetus. This principle, again, lies deep in Catholicism and Judaism, as written in sacred text and just simply been a natural and expected way of societal existence.

Bhattacharya gathers these six principles into the topic of assistive reproductive technologies and applies them in her conclusion. She concludes that one can clearly argue that the Mahabharatawould not only permit surrogacy, sperm donation, participation in gene selection, and embryonic manipulation, but also condone such practices. (52) When comparing with the Hebrew Bible, she says that “in the Hebrew Bible, God is unquestionably in ultimate control of the process of producing offspring.” (56) However, there are stances where assisted reproductive technologies are permitted, which Broyde’s work outlines. Broyde implies that Jewish law allows these forms of reproductive technologies if it fit the family’s needs. Bhattacharya uses the Hebrew Bible and Roman Catholicism viewpoints as comparative analyses to contrast, but also share how the theme that religion is the basis for belief surrounding reproduction is seen across both Hinduism and Judaism.

In looking at and analyzing the works of two different authors, writing about two different perspectives and religious outlooks, we are presented with dissimilar viewpoints on reproductive technology. However, looking more closely and examining the basis for why each of the authors comes to their conclusion, both Jewish and Hindu perspectives seem less different than at first thought. Both offer viewpoints that accept the use of assisted reproductive technologies for the most part, but also state that the usage is circumstantial and can be attributed to a diverse set of beliefs. However, when examining the reasoning for reaching their respective conclusions, the causes are different as they stem from their own religious texts that comes from Judaism and Hinduism, which influence Broyde and Bhattacharya, respectively, which contain a unique set of culture and traditions.

 

Blog 2 – Neha Vaddepally

In order to characterize the differences between Bhattacharya and Broyde’s approaches to reproductive technology, we must first understand the authors’ purpose in writing about the topic. Michael Broyde in his book Modern Reproductive Technologies and Jewish Law aims to create an analysis of the technology of cloning from a Jewish law perspective, since “every legal, religious, or ethical system has to insist that advances in technologies be evaluated against the touchstones of its moral systems” (Broyde 295). He explains in the first chapter of this book that he does not claim to have authority of any religious institution, but rather he means to discuss the topic of cloning through his experience of Jewish law and ethics. Since cloning is a new technology that could not have existed when the Judaism came to be, Broyde is forced to reference both the Torah and other secondary interpretations of the text. After a thorough reading of religious texts, he was able to pinpoint rules that either allowed for cloning and clones to be accepted into society and the Jewish faith, or did not. Through this research, Broyde was able to provide, with a sufficient degree of certainty, that cloning is conditionally an acceptable method of reproduction.

Swasti Bhattacharya writes Magical Progeny, Modern Technology for much different reasons than Broyde. Her piece is not focused on one aspect of bioethics, but rather attempts to tackle bioethics from a Hindu perspective as a whole. Through her book, Bhattacharya strives for a much larger goal than simply understanding how modern reproductive technology would be interpreted by the Hindu eye. She means to establish the field of Hindu bioethics, as it does not exist to the extent that Christian and Jewish perspectives do. After discussing the critical role that religion plays in the field of bioethics, Bhattacharya calls attention to the lack of religious diversity in medicine and the importance of cultural competency in the practice of medicine rather than the theory. Culture, religion, and tradition allow for individuality within society, resulting in a varied experience of reality for each person. It is of utmost importance that medical practitioners are aware of these differences between people and their experiences of life in order to help them when necessary. A detailed analysis of the Hindu myth called the Mahabarata is the core of Bhattacharya’s attempt to construct a bioethical framework of assisted reproductive technology that did not previously exist. Despite taking up this enormous job on her own, Bhattacharya does not take an authoritative stance on the material she discusses. Early on in the text, she clarifies that the contents of the book are only based on her interpretations of Hinduism, and do not represent the views of others.

When comparing these two texts, it is clear that a key difference lies in the religions that they explore. Of course, I cannot say for certain that this is the only difference. An argument could be made that each author’s methodology could play a role in their differences. In this case it would be that Bhattacharya reads Hindu text and derives bioethical ideals from her understanding of it, while Broyde starts with an ethical problem and searches Jewish texts to find a solution for it. Inevitably there will be differences due to these methods of research, but when one inquires as to why the research was done this way, the answer ultimately falls back to religion. By this, I mean the structure of Hinduism and Judaism, not the religious ideals or practices. As far as I understand, the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) tend to follow a well established set of rules dictated by the bible. While there may be variation in the way in which these religions are practiced, there do exist fairly specific guidelines on how one should live their life. This allows for more pointed discussion on matters in question, in this case, cloning.

While Judaism is quite structured, Hinduism is the opposite. The term “Hinduism” itself is misleading, as it is an umbrella term for a multitude of different religious ideals and practices that are close enough in relation to be mistaken as one religion. There is no “formal discipline that presents and internally consistent rational system in which patterns of human conduct are justified with reference to ultimate norms and values” (Bhattacharya 27). Thus, there is no one voice that can speak for Hinduism. This makes it quite difficult to pinpoint one perspective of a bioethical issue.

Jewish and Christian bioethics rely on the regimented nature of their religions to engage in discussion about various topics. To establish a comparable field of bioethics using a pluralistic religion such as Hinduism is not practical. The nature of Hinduism itself, disregarding culture and tradition, prevents us from being able to create a “field” of bioethics as we understood it through the Abrahamic religions. Christianity and Judaism have shaped Western thought such that we feel it is necessary to have a specific set of rules that we live by. Since this does not exist in Hinduism, it is not possible to have a “Hindu bioethics”. Regardless of this, Bhattacharya made a commendable effort to bring Hindu ideas and traditions into medicine, introducing diversity into a previously homogeneous field.

Blog Post #2 – Jin Yoo

Jinny Yoo

With the development in biotechnology and assisted reproductive technologies (ART), infertile couples are working in collaboration with scientists to find new avenues for reproduction. Naturally, the bioethics behind these new tools is brought into question, and interestingly enough, perhaps due to the influence of Western culture, the ethics of ART have mainly been approached with Jewish, Christian, and Catholic lenses. Thus, Bhattacharya, originally a nurse practitioner who earned her PhD with her interpretation of ART ethics through Hinduism, published a book, Magical Progeny, Modern Technology: A Hindu Bioethics of Assisted Reproductive Technology. She delves into the traditional stories of Hinduism, the 6 defining characteristics of the religion, and how these narratives and factors play a role in shaping the Hindi perspective on ART.

On the other hand, Broyde writes of whether Judaism approves of or condemns cloning. He analyzes each step in the cloning process and any potential problems that may be raised through the Jewish law, the halakhah. His main objective is to establish if cloning is permissible (mutar), prohibited (asur), or a good deed (mitzvah) (Broyde, 296). In order to do, this begins with the scientific background of cloning – this is a process that produces a human, or clone, with the same genetic information as the clonee. Rather than the production of a randomized set of genes from a mother and father, the clone would have the same genetic information as an individual who already exists. Thus, there is a distinction between a human being conceived by fertilization and a clone, which replicates the genetic information from a prior existence.

Broyde begins by raising the question of identifying the clone’s family: can there be two moms? He compares cloning to surrogacy, in which the gestational mother is labeled as the legal mother, despite the lack of genetic relation (Broyde, 300). On the other hand, the DNA contributor is to be considered the parent of the clone, as the gestational mother should not have any connection to the clone besides providing for its developing chamber; yet there is still ambiguity as clones do not share the same parents (Broyde, 304). He also raises the points of Judaism law that imply humanness is not dependent on intelligence, but rather a womb birth, while others translate it to humanness as qualified by human function capability (Broyde, 307).

Broyde concludes with his stance that Jewish law does not view cloning with the same degree of acceptance as life produced through IVF, but clones should still be considered human life (Broyde, 315). He also states that the process of cloning is fulfilling the Jewish male obligation to be fruitful, and for some infertile couples, it may be the only solution to provide for their barrenness – thus, the cloning of males is considered to be a mitzvah, while that of a woman is neutral, because while it does not go against Jewish laws, it is not necessary for women to multiply in the same way it is for men (Broyde, 311). He recommends that males should have their wives hold their clones, and if this is not possible, they should first seek an unmarried Jewish woman, then a non-Jewish woman, in that order, to avoid complications of parenthood; women should hold their own clones, and if not possible, they should seek firstly a non-Jewish woman, then an unmarried Jewish woman. This is based on the thought that children take the religion of their Jewish mothers (Broyde, 316).

While Broyde mainly uses Jewish laws and ethics that have been derived from prior cases of ART studied by the Jewish, statements made by rabbis, and certified texts such as the Talmud, Bhattacharya does not incorporate or even have access to this type of information. The latter author extrapolates from narratives of traditional Hinduism and bases her conclusions from these stories and the defining principles of Hinduism. However, it is important to note that unlike Judaism, Hinduism does not have recognized rules or laws for their everyday life because the basis of the religion stems from that every individual should live accordingly to fulfill dharma, karma, and ahimsa. Dharma, or the order and law for the entirety of society, promotes Hindus to consider the consequences of their deeds – will it overall positively impact society (65)? Karma merely translates to “action,” but it is intertwined with the idea that every individual is subject to judgment for his/her actions in future lives; thus, “this theory of karma calls individuals to take responsibility for their actions and to act” (Bhattacharya, 72). Lastly, ahimsa is the principle of non-harm (Bhattacharya, 73), and this affirms respect for all life, including that of fetuses and embryos (Bhattacharya, 86).

Due to the dearth in readily provided information in the bioethics of assisted reproductive technology in conjunction to Hinduism, it is natural that Bhattacharya is unable to draw definitive conclusions in her text. In contrast, Broyde has a different methodology of data collection because of the resources he has in his topic with Judaism. Thus, the two authors’ disparities in approach to reproductive technology not only stem from the obvious dissimilarities between the two religions, but also from their processes of data collection and the resources available. In fact, Bhattacharya began her research in Hinduism and ART because of the lack thereof. However, the two authors share a similar inability to make strong claims in their speech: Bhattacharya suggests that Hinduism’s principles are considered in the future when viewing assisted reproductive technology, the bioethics behind it, and scientific research in general (Bhattacharya, 108). Likewise, Broyde mentions his hopefulness that his analysis is considered when Jewish law indicates an approval or disapproval on cloning (Broyde, 316). As both authors are attempting to merely provide more perspectives to the respective fields of research, they both conclude with their requests towards those with religious authoritative power to consider their recommendations.

Interestingly, Bhattacharya addresses Jewish and Christian principles in her text and the published doctrines of both religions in her account. However, she mainly provides this information to contrast it with her more accepting interpretations of ART. For example, she states that as ART inevitably threatens some forms of life through the disposal of unneeded embryos and the Church views zygotes, pre-embryos, embryos, and fetuses as the same entities of life, it rejects most forms of assisted reproductive technologies (Bhattacharya, 83). In consideration of the principle of ahimsa, ART should likewise be rejected in Hinduism; however, she articulates Lipner’s point that the “soul unites with the embryo after conception” (Bhattacharya, 85), and that Hindus, although respectful of developing fetal life, do not view the former states of cell life as the same platform of a human being (Bhattacharya, 86). From this assertion, these technologies may be used to promote reproduction for infertile couples if it is used within the realms of dharma and karma.

In addition, she reiterates from the Hebrew Bible that “God is unquestionably in ultimate control of the process of producing offspring” (Bhattacharya, 56) and derives from the story of Rachel and Jacob to articulate how the couple was able to have babies only after much prayer. She also mentions the case of Zechariah and Elizabeth from the New Testament of the Christian Bible of Elizabeth’s conception that occurred only after the mother’s barrenness was overcome through God’s blessing (Bhattacharya, 56). She highlights the contrast between the narratives of Judaism and Christianity with those of three of the queens of Hinduism, Kunti, Madri, and Gandhari. To summarize the mentioned Hindu stories from the Mahabharata, the Hindi royal families face various problems with infertility and seek magical help from their gods. They manipulate factors to control the type of child to be born, such as Madri taking advantage of Kunti’s boon and seeking help from twin gods in order to have two children rather than one, or Gandhari’s wishes to provide the first-born son and going against her god’s recommendation to abandon her mass of children and, rather, facing trials to ensure their births (Bhattacharya, 42-44). Bhattacharya extrapolates from these stories and draws metaphors between the queens’ actions to conclude that modern individuals also seek ways to mold their to-be-born children and multiple births through IVF (Bhattacharya, 43).

Bhattacharya recommends that Hindus reflect upon the repercussions of ART prior to its usage. For instance, when approached with amniocentesis, which allows future parents to test their fetuses for Downs Syndrome and other health complications prior to birth giving, she states that individuals should consider the ideas of dharma, karma, and ahimsa. While aborting the fetus would be harming a form of life that counters ahimsa, it should be considered if there would be an overall benefit for the future child, the providing family, and society in doing so. “A human fetus is not simply inconsequential tissue easily discarded, nor is it a fully matured adult human being” (Bhattacharya, 107); thus, taking life will have karmic consequences, and individuals, while having autonomy, also have an obligation to be responsible for their actions. In addition, while cloning would raise various questions in bioethics, society may benefit in an influx of available organs for transplants and the potential to find cures for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease (Bhattacharya, 108). Thus, Bhattacharya reiterates that because Hinduism is not monolithic (Bhattacharya, 77) and has various characteristics that make up its foundation, there is no conclusive answer on whether or not it supports or rejects assisted reproductive technology. She states the need to judge every Hindi couple’s case on an individual basis through the six key elements of Hinduism that are detailed in her writing (Bhattacharya, 107).

 

Citations

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.