Halachic supervision of fertility treatment FAQ

Couples often turn to us with concerns about genetic materials they present to the lab in the course of fertility treatment. Such concerns are not groundless (see the story of the Savage family). The PUAH Institute provides halachic supervision of the processing of genetic materials.

Why do we need supervision?

Halachically, a child is considered to be the product of both his parents. When a child is conceived via a fertility treatment which requires laboratory processing of genetic materials, this assumption comes into question.

Although fertility laboratories are meticulous in adhering to their protocols and safety standards, the possibility of human error still exists. Halachic supervision is the method of providing independent testimony as to the identity of the child.

With the introduction of PUAH supervision services, many Rabbinic authorities who had previously forbidden the use of these types of fertility treatments allow them.

What exactly is halachic supervision?

PUAH supervisors provide personal, independent testimony as to the chain of posession of the genetic materials processed in the fertility lab. As such, the supervisor must be physically present from the moment the materials come into the lab's posession and throughout the processing of the materials. At any time the supervisor is not physically present, even if only for a moment, all genetic materials are locked with tamper-proof seals in order to maintain the integrity of the supervision.

Who are your supervisors?

Puah's supervisors are religious women who have been trained to maintain constant eye contact of the genetic materials without interfering with lab operations. They are not necessarily medical professionals, but are accepted as expert witnesses by the local Rabbinic authorities.

When is supervision required?

Any fertility treatment which involves the processing of genetic materials in the lab to be used for conception requires halachic supervision. Included procedures are:

  • Freezing of sperm or eggs

  • IUI

  • IVF

  • PGD

  • Cryopreservation of embryos

  • Use of frozen embryos

What about semen analysis?

After a semen analysis (not one performed as part of an IUI or IVF), the sperm is destroyed. Since this sperm is not used for conception, halachic supervision is not required.

What if my embryologist or a lab worker is Jewish? Can't they provide this testimony?

Halachically, testimony of this nature can only be provided by an independent body. Rav Sholom Elyashiv, shlit”a, a highly respected Rabbinic Authority in Israel specifically told us that “even if I were to be the lab worker I would need to be independently supervised!”

Why can’t my husband act as the supervisor?

PUAH supervisors have been specifically trained in the observation of laboratory fertility processing, while staying out of the way of the lab workers who are performing their often delicate work. Furthermore, PUAH supervisors have been certified by the labs in order not to compromise the confidentiality of all patients.

Have you really prevented any errors?

Although errors are extremely rare, in the thousands upon thousands of procedures PUAH has supervised over the past twenty years, dozens of errors have been prevented by Puah supervisors.  In each case, the near-error is analyzed to help prevent future mistakes.

Do all rabbinic authorities accept Puah's supervision?

Yes.  The Puah Institute renowned for its cooperation with all rabbis and poskim from the entire rabbinic spectrum.

I have heard that some Rabbis rely on DNA testing of the baby to provide proof that no mistakes were made?

While it is true that DNA testing could serve this purpose, we believe that supervision is a better solution. DNA test results will only tell us that a mistake has been made after the fact. If such a mistake is detected, we would be faced with an impossible dilemma: what do we do with this child? Supervision preempts this situation from ever occuring.

Is our confidentiality assured?

Each of Puah's supervisors are carefully screened before and during the training process.  The supervisors all understand the sensitive nature of their job, are extremely discreet, and each sign a very explicit confidentiality agreement.

How much does supervision cost?

The cost varies according to the type of the procedure, the location of the lab and other factors (such as Shabbat, etc.).  Every effort is made to minimize the cost of the supervision services.

How do I schedule supervision?

Once you have set an appointment with your fertility clinic or doctor's office, immediately contact your local Puah office who will guide you through the process.

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