Wednesday, July 22, 2009

From Torah Tidbits:Supervision & Male Fertility Preservation

Supervision & Male Fertility Preservation  In the early days of the development of modern scientific fertility treatments, poskim, concerned about the potential for laboratory errors leading to the use of the wrong genetic materials, ruled that such treatments were impermissible. Several highly publicized cases of IVF babies being implanted into the wrong female confirmed their fears.
The onset of halachically supervised fertility treatments dramatically changed the halachic realities. Such supervision requires the presence of a third party supervisor whose job it is to prevent any potential mistakes of human error and ensure that any children born of such methods are the genetic products of the intended parents.
Supervision is not limited to IVF, appropriate supervision is halachically essential for all forms of fertility treatments in which genetic material is processed outside the body for eventual use in the birth of a child. This includes male fertility preservation, our topic of the past few weeks.
In the example we have discussed, a male cancer patient facing potential infertility as a result of his upcoming medical treatments, the need for supervision is paramount, in order to ensure that his frozen sperm sample is "certified" as belonging to him, allowing it to be used for fertilization procedures with his wife. Unfortunately, in the frantic rush to (a) make sure that the patient's sperm is preserved prior to beginning critically needed medical treatment on a timely basis and (b) preserve multiple samples of material for preservation, supervision sometimes gets overlooked.
I recently met with representatives of large organization that works with families who have children with cancer. As part of their services, they regularly refer young men for fertility preservation and through no fault of their own had never even considered the necessity of supervision in such cases. After explaining the process and halachic need for such supervision to them, they immediately changed their protocols and now recommend supervision to all their client families. Not only does supervision ensure that the process if overseen according to halacha, in this case there is an additional benefit.
The young terminally ill patients we are discussing are often frightened and concerned. They may never have ever been to a hospital before becoming ill, and are suddenly subjected to a battery of tests and treatments and told that their treatment may affect their fertility. Having someone meet them at the clinic to assist them, guide them and comfort them, to know that there is someone looking out for them in the lab and be assured that at least this part of the procedure is in good religious hands is a huge reassurance for them and a wonderful aid for their eventual recovery. 
NEXT: Female Fertility Preservation