Savior Siblings (by Catie Goodell)

[ By on May 15, 2017 ]

Molly Nash was born in 1994 with a genetic disorder called Fanconi anemia, a disease that causes problems with her bone marrow and leukemia later on. There was a 25 percent chance that the parents could have a child the same disorder, so her parents abstained from having another child until they heard of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), a process that allows parents to pre-screen their embryos for any genetic anomalies. In the case of the Nash family, they screened the genetic makeup of each embryo for the presence of Fanconi anemia and if the tissue would match Molly’s, so she could have a transplant. Immediately after Adam was born, they used the tissue from his umbilical cord to use as a bone marrow transplant for Molly. She is now healthy and living thanks to the help of her brother.

After reading this story, I immediately thought of what they did with the umbilical cord. Was it thrown away or saved for later use? And could the same thing be said about Adam? It seems as though Adam was only born (and chosen by his parents) for the purpose of saving his sister. If the parents had conceived a child naturally and without the intervention of science, there would be a 25 percent chance that this child would have Hannah’s disease. Since they did not want to risk their child undergoing this disease again, does this mean that if they had known about Hannah’s condition before her death, would they have chosen to end her life, prenatally.

From a utilitarian perspective, there does not seem to be a large issue with Adam being born. Hannah is saved, and Adam is given the opportunity of life. The parents get to have two children. However, the result is an unequal balance in who is able to afford to either design how their baby should be or choose which embryo is most suitable to them. It is expensive to manipulate the outcome of your embryo and it would allow wealthier families to choose to have more successful babies without disease and with a better livelihood. While poorer families would have to suffer the effects of genetic diseases.
Savior Siblings

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3 Comments on “Savior Siblings (by Catie Goodell)”

  1. KNF

    Kelley Nicholson-Flynn

    [ May 16, 2017 at 4:15 pm ]

    This is such an interesting and difficult topic. How does Kant’s idea of the categorical imperative apply here? (Means…ends…)

  2. KNF

    What are your thoughts on a case where the first sibling needs ongoing treatment and procedures requiring the cooperation of their sibling? If the parents are the source of consent for both children, what are the conflicts of interest in that paradigm? What if the younger sibling, who may still be a minor, wants to say no?

  3. KNF

    Then would it make a difference if there were public funding? Is the issue just monetary equity or are other issues in play?

    While in this case you have laid it out that Adam was only born to help his sister, aren’t all children in fact born to benefit someone else? (to support parents on the farm or in old age, etc)

    Is there an imperative to do whatever can be done to help another?

Hi Stranger, reply with your thoughts:

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