Religion and oncofertility strive to maintain an open and mutually beneficial dialogue in order to meet somewhere in the middle. Oddly enough, science and theology often overlap, albeit outside of the lab, so it’s important to bridge any gaps that may exist in the current debate surrounding reproductive technology and certain faiths. The benefits that fertility preserving techniques can have on the quality of life of a cancer patient needs to align with their religious beliefs if that proves to be an issue in their decision-making process.
One of the many religions that are open to the relationship between science and faith is Judaism. Judaism, specifically Orthodox Judaism, has many different movements that adhere to common principles. One key feature that these different movements share is their dedication to both the written and the oral Torah. The Torah refers to the first 5 books of both the Jewish and Christian bible and Judaism teaches that the Torah is of divine origin and represents the word of G-d. (In this blog, we will practice the Jewish custom of spelling G-d as a measure of respect for the religion, which comes from the tradition of never spelling the Hebrew equivalent of the name).
The Torah contains 613 miztvot, or commandments, with the first stating to “be fruitful and multiply.” One of the hallmarks of orthodoxy is that it encourages intellectual questioning in order to live morally and ethically in a way that G-d requires of his followers. Thus, one could presume that for an Orthodox Jew facing a cancer diagnosis, it is a religious obligation to preserve their fertility and their ability to bear children – that science and religion are not in fact in conflict, but working together to sustain G-d’s commandment, “be fruitful and multiply.”
According to Sherman Silber, MD, in “Judaism and Reproductive Technologies,” even the “strictest orthodox Jewish theology maintains that the Torah is not in conflict with reproductive technologies…for cancer patients of reproductive age, Jewish law ultimately requires every effort to safeguard the possibility for future parenthood.” This even holds true in some cases of gamete donation, specifically ovarian tissue cryopreservation. In Judaism, religious leaders may not encourage egg or sperm donation because their use may be seen as breaking the marital bond; however, ovarian tissue donation is allowable because “the egg is being ovulated within the body of the intended mother.”
Many followers of Judaism agree that mankind needs to find it’s way to G-d through intellectual reasoning and mindful conflict resolution, in order to live their lives the way G-d intended. From that we can deduce that Judaism, although not aligned with all fertility preservation techniques, engages in an open and thoughtful dialogue with the science of oncofertility To learn more about Judaism’s relationship with reproductive technologies, please read Sherman Silber’s, “Judaism and Reproductive Technologies,” in Oncofertility: Ethical, Legal, Social, and Medical Perspectives.