Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cont'd Dr. Mittman on Health Research

Dr. Mittman continues writing:

" Genetic Assessment
The organization Dor Yeshorim has increased awareness of genetics in the Orthodox community. The testing it provides is one way to alert people considering marriage as to whether, together, they are likely to have children with a specific genetic condition, such as cystic fibrosis, Tay Sachs, Canavan disease, or Bloom syndrome.
In regard to other illnesses and conditions, however, my research has unraveled many erroneous beliefs. Do they constitute a genetic condition or not? As an Orthodox physician articulated to me, “People often call me with genetic questions. There are lots of different disorders, and many people don’t have any idea whether they are genetic, or even important.”

Getting an accurate genetic risk assessment in a quick phone inquiry is rather tricky. First of all, genetics is a complex science, and demands a close familiarity with the rapidly evolving nature of the field and emerging findings of human genome research. Moreover, only a careful examination of the health history of both sides of the family would be reliable enough to be used as a basis for such an important question as “chasana or no chasana?” So, where do we go from here?

The Benefit-Burden Concept
While Dor Yeshorim offers a reliable way to do premarital testing for recessive conditions, it does not guarantee perfect health for a myriad of other conditions that are not recessive. Simply put, there is no such thing as a “free lunch.” Everything we do in life demands some compromise, some work, and yes, risk-taking.

When one gets into a car one takes a major risk for injury and even fatal accidents, G-d forbid, but one takes this risk daily because one needs to get places to carry out our routines. In other words, for the benefit of driving we have to put up with the risks that driving entails: getting lost on the way to our destination, having a flat tire, or, G-d forbid, worse possibilities. In the same way, finding our bashert means taking a chance. We hope that we and our children and loved ones will live to me’ah ve’esrim (120) in wonderful health, but we cannot predict our future, and there are no guarantees. We do not know whether the child will develop asthma, have an attention deficit disorder, or grow up to have hypertension.

The Beauty of Diversity
We have to remember, also, the special value of uniqueness, our diversity is what makes the world such a wonderful place. Having said that, if there are serious health issues in the family beyond those of the general population, it is possible to ascertain genetic risk. Just remember, it is a matter for experts. Call your doctor, and if the doctor is not sure, ask to speak to a genetic specialist. To find a genetic counselor in your area, you can log into the web site of the National Society of Genetic Counseling:

Dr. Mittman is a certified genetic counselor and a public health expert at the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities in the Maryland Department of Health and Hygiene.

What I want to bring to your attention with this article is that one should be discriminating when doing research on matters of health. Do not reject a shidduch out of hand because of a health problem. Consult with a doctor who can advise you.