Knowing What the Future Holds
Being newly committed to being a cultured and up-to-date person, I was perusing the NY Times yesterday (yes, on my day off!) and I came across this article about a woman who undergoes genetic testing and discovers that she has the gene for Huntington's disease, a neurological disorder that truncates one's life and debilitates a person's quality of life due to the death of brain cells.
The woman featured in the article voluntarily underwent this genetic testing to find out whether she would develop the disease. The introduction to the article asks "If you carried the gene for a fatal genetic disease, would you want to know? Why or why not?"
To me, this is similar to the idea of Dor Yeshorim testing that many Orthodox Jews undergo in order to determine whether a potential spouse would be genetically incompatible with someone else. The way this testing is done is that you don't find out whether you are actually a carrier for a disease, but only whether both you and the person you are checking on are carriers, and therefore extremely likely to pass genetic problems on to your children. This is not as much of a predictive test as was discussed in the article, but they are similar concepts.
I've never been registered with Dor Yeshorim. I am very uncomfortable with the idea of, what seems to me, to make the attempt to predict what will happen, or avoid what may or may not happen. The idea of saying whether two people are compatible based on their genetic makeup just doesn't sit very well with me. I know the arguments - that you might as well avoid the heartache of having to deal with such horrible diseases and suffering in one's children, but I guess I just look and see that there are so many things that happen that can't be predicted and it seems weird to me to even try.
So, going back to the NY Times article, would I undergo such testing so I would know what my future holds in relation to a disabling genetic disease? It's different than in the Dor Yeshorim testing, because this is an absolute predictor. The woman who underwent the test found out that she would develop Huntington's disease and the test even gave her an estimated age at which it would begin to surface.
I understand the desire to want to prepare oneself and make the time one has left before developing such an illness as full and rich as possible. But the fear and dread that one is left with every day until the symptoms start really appearing - and the suspicion that every little pain or sniffle might be leading to it - I think that wouldn't be worth the knowledge. The fact that you would be waiting for it, without even having the option of thinking that maybe it wouldn't strike - to me, that would make my quality of life diminish.
Maybe it's because I'm not really a worrying type. I don't worry about so many things. I don't really live in fear of much. I even had to be trained to lock my doors (though I now do lock them) because I just don't have that quality that seems to lead people to fret and be scared. But to me, I wouldn't want to know. I would hope, and do hope, that I lead my life to the fullest I can without such an ominous future ahead. Because you never really know what's going to happen anyway.
I don't know, maybe I just like to cover my eyes and not see the reality of what life can offer. But I would rather be blind and live life each day without knowing what will happen the next. Would you want to know?