The question has come up on bad4shidduchim's blog about health issues and making shidduchim. Most of the commenters are younger than I am and their comments and attitudes worry me--no, let me be frank and honest; they scare me to death and they piss me off like almost nothing else. A lot of what I hear online and in the "real" world represents misinformation and disinformation. In particular, people are worried about genetic diseases. Going to the government and medical research websites which talk about genetic disease in particular can be enlightening. The following is a short excerpt from one of those sites.
There are about 5,000 human genetic diseases, including muscular dystrophy, hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, sickle-cell anemia, and Tay-Sachs disease. Genetic disease take a particularly heavy toll among the young, resulting in one-fifth of all infant mortalities, half of all miscarriages, and 80 percent of all cases of mental retardation. Genetic disease afflicts perhaps 15 percent of the general population, but if one considers diseases which are polygenic or have a strong genetic component (such as cancer, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease), then they account for fully 75 percent of all deaths in the United States.
Although medicine was helpless for thousands of years against these ancient diseases, molecular medicine promises us new therapies and strategies in the battle against them, and possibly even cures. However, it is a battle that must be waged indefinitely, because there is a never-ending struggle between evolution (which gradually eliminates these harmful genes by natural selection) and mutations (which are constantly being replenished by random errors, cosmic rays, toxins, environmental contaminations, etc.). In each generation, a few hundred mutations occur in the DNA of each one of us. If we assume that a small percentage of these are harmful, then perhaps two or three harmful genes creep into our bodies by mutation. Thus perhaps 10 billion new harmful genes enter the human gene pool every generation. As a result, the battle against genetic disease will never end.
Yes, there are 5000 specific genetic diseases that we know of right now. In addition, genes are involved in other diseases which we do not think of as being genetic, such as cancer and Alzheimers.Those are only the genetic diseases that we know about right now. Nor does that 5000 number represent all diseases possible in a human being. There are environmental factors that influence the prevalence of disease as well. And then, as the article states, there are the constantly mutating genes that occur in all of our DNA in each generation.
Some of those diseases and medical conditions which the frum population worries about so much are not genetic in nature; some are. A few are avoidable through careful selection of marrying parties (Tay-Sachs disease for one); most aren't. Some of what we label disease could rightly be labeled as a medical condition instead, present in one person but not genetic.
Health questions have become legion in the shidduch process. Let someone have a sibling with Downs Syndrome and shidduch prospects plummet. Let someone have a parent or grandparent who has had heart disease and the prospects plummet. Hay fever? Don't advertise it--it's bad for shidduchim. Hearing loss? Don't admit it. You needed speech therapy before? Forget you had it.
Because of this "fear of the fatal," people are lying about any and all conditions that they personally may have or that may have been in their families. Medical histories are being hidden or re-written. Why? Because it's all bad for shidduchim. What's really bad for shidduchim is the fact that people are turning into liars.
Common sense is one thing--think Dror Yeshorim. But the vast majority of things that can afflict human beings are not things that we can predict with any high degree of accuracy nor assurance.
None of us were guaranteed by our Maker to be perfect, and yet we insist on that illusory perfection in those we are looking to marry. As the article states, mutations occur in the billions in each generation. You cannot possibly know what to look for or to watch out for.
The "imperfect" in Klal are redt shidduchim, by and large, only to others with such "imperfection" in their families. "Regular" people turn them down. Regular people? Do you really know what's going on in the deep recesses of your body, of your genetic code? Do you know what mutations might as I write this be taking place in your body? What makes you think that you are not the next ticking genetic time bomb? Or maybe you are going to be the next victim of environmental influences.
And if a "perfect" person who marries another "perfect" person happens to come down with some kind of medical condition or disease, does the non-afflicted partner get to ask for his/her money back? What balderdash! Be sensible, yes; insist on "genetic purity"--wasn't that the Nazi's party line?
Yes, Ribboneh Shel Olam, Your chosen people here on earth are conducting one big genetic screening test; they call it making the perfect shidduch. Yes Tate, they shame people and cause them public embarrassment in doing so. Yes Tate, they shun Your children for being as You created them. Yes Tate, some of Your children believe that You created them better than other of Your children. And please Tate, have rachamim when You show them the error of their ways, when their burden to bear arrives for them. Please Tate, be merciful in their afflictions. And please Tate, help us to see, before it is too late, the error of our thinking, the error of our ways.