Nov 2, 2012

Upping the Odds for a Miracle

A letter that I wrote to a frum publication:

I'd like to share with your readers what it says about prenatal sonograms in the book Aleinu L'Shabei'ach (Devarim, p. 242) by Rabbi Yitzchok Zilberstein. After a patient refused to have an ultrasound done, with Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky's support, a doctor asked R' Zilberstein to explain this to him. He asked his brother-in-law, R' Kanievsky who said that if there are no specific medical problems with either the woman or the fetus, it is preferable for her not to do a routine sonogram. As long as no problem has been diagnosed, prayer is more beneficial. If, however, a woman has a sonogram done and it shows a defect in the fetus, it will require an open miracle to heal the baby and not everyone is worthy of a miracle.

R' Zilberstein brings support to this position from the miracles related about Elisha and the Shunamite woman with the oil and later with her son, in which the miracles needed to be performed discreetly. Hashem wants miracles to be done in as inconspicuous a manner as possible. A blessing from a sage and prayer are more effective when an illness or defect have not been discovered and a big miracle need not be performed.

R' Zilberstein said he heard in the name of the Klausenberger Rebbe zt'l that a person should go to a sage for him to pray before he goes to the doctor, because once the doctor says there is a serious problem, it is much more difficult for the sage to reverse it.

R' Zilberstein adds that many times, women have the routine sonogram which reveals a possibility of a problem and this causes the woman to be extremely anxious and fearful, especially when many defects are incurable. Doctors often recommend the termination of the pregnancy, which is forbidden. All of the anguish suffered by the mothers is therefore pointless, he says, since there is nothing they can do about the defect and there is a good chance the baby will be fine. It is better not to take these tests since Hashem created the world in such a way that a woman should not know what is in her womb, as Shlomo Ha'Melech says in Koheles 11:5.

I have read numerous stories of women who were given dire news upon taking a sonogram and were pressured to terminate the pregnancy. These stories ended with a healthy child. Were the doctors wrong or did a miracle occur? We don't know. What we do know is that those reading the sonograms don't even get the gender right 100% of the time, or the size of the baby. If sonograms are about saving even one life, as one letter writer wrote, thought should be given to all those lives that are ended, r'l, because of routine sonograms. Likewise, thought should be given to the effects of prolonged and extreme anxiety on the expectant mother and the fetus.

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