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Should a couple getting married be tested for Jewish genetic diseases?

Should a couple getting married be tested for Jewish genetic diseases?
Answer By: 
Rabbi Larry Sernovitz

Dear Rabbi,
We are planning our wedding. We are not convinced of the need to get tested for Jewish Genetic Diseases before we get married. We have too much to do before the wedding anyway and we just don't have time to get it done. Whatever our carrier status happens to be, it isn't going to prevent us from getting married so why should we get tested anyway?

Planning for a wedding can be a very time consuming process, especially for a young couple. All of this can be extremely overwhelming. However, genetic testing should not be tossed off the list just because there are so many other things to be done. Getting a simple blood test can make all the difference. If one partner is a carrier of any of the 19 Jewish genetic diseases, the other partner should be screened as well. If both partners are carriers, there is a 25% chance the couple will give birth to an affected child. Once you have this knowledge, you can make intelligent decisions regarding the future. This can include in-vitro fertilization, virtually eliminating the chances of having an affected child, or having a natural pregnancy with the knowledge that a tough decision might have to be made down the road. If this is the chosen route, having a CVS test (Chorionic villus sampling , a prenatal test that detects chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome as well as genetic diseases) completed around 11-12 weeks can identity genetic diseases in the fetus and give you the knowledge to make an informed decision.

Here is what you can do:

Get in touch with the Victor Center for Jewish Genetic Diseases. They have centers in Philadelphia, Boston, and Miami. Their website is filled with useful information. They will give you all the information you need to make informed decisions and to get tested.

Additionally, for information about genetic counselors nationwide, you can visit the National Society of Genetic Counselors website for a listing of genetic counselors and screening centers nationwide. All counselors are accredited and are excellent resources for you.

Rabbi Larry Sernovitz serves Temple Emanuel in Cherry Hill, NJ.

Topic: Bioethics, Birth