Second Hand Thoughts on YU’s Medical Ethics Conference On Fertility

I was registered and supposed to attend YU’s medical ethics conference on Fertility, Modern Medicine, and Jewish Law this past Sunday but instead paid a shiva call to R. Moshe Tendler, my teacher of two and a half years, and pioneer in the field of Jewish medical ethics. Thankfully, CuriousJew has her typically thorough writeup of the event.
Some quick-hit second-hand thoughts and observations:

  • If you ever have the opportunity to hear R. Johnathan Sacks, do so. An exemplar of the “integration” model of Torah U’Madda if there ever was one (and a captivating speaker no less).
  • Regarding various fertilization methods, I must cite the classic R. Tendler quote: “You cannot commit adultery with a hypodermic syringe.”
  • One of the “misconceptions” of infertility attributed to Dr. Richard Grazi is that a pelvic exam creates a niddah. I do not have access to the sources presently, but my father agrees saying that it’s really a dispute between R. Yohanan (lenient) and Reish Lakish (strict) in which case we usually follow the teacher. However, he does point out that in a YU shiur he attended, the Rabbi paskened l’humra, apparently buying into the “misconception.”
  • There was some discussion related to multiple births and viability. This discussion is predicated on the Jewish perception of abortion, a topic into which I will not get. However, I do recall R. Tendler discussing the McCaughey septuplets and praising the family for adhering to their beliefs by not aborting any fetuses.
  • The halakhot of shichvat zera levatala are more complicated than simply assur. The Conservative Teshuva on Homosexuality covered many of the nuances despite ultimately punting on the pesak.

Not having been there or having a better command of the subjects, I can’t comment further. Hopefully I will not have such a reason to miss it next year.

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