Going Deeper with ’My Sister’s Keeper’
|by Catherine Larson|
I haven't yet had the chance to see My Sister's Keeper, the new movie based on the bestselling book by Jodi Picoult, but I understand that it is an important film in the ongoing discussion of bioethics.
The film deals with the real issue known as "savior sibling." In the U.S. today it is legal to select an embryo so that it will be most compatible genetically to a sibling who may need medical attention. The first documented case in the U.S. was with Adam Nash in 2000.
Of course, there are not only ethical issues involved with using a child as a donor, but also the ethical issues involved in what happens to the many embryos who are not "selected." We euphemistically dodge those. We'll be featuring a great article on the subject in the next few days from Jennifer Lahl, the Director of the Center of Bioethics. In the meantime, I was reading a fascinating interview with author Jodi Picoult about how she came up with the storyline for the book. Here's what she has to say:
I came about the idea for this novel through the back door of a previous one, Second Glance. While researching eugenics for that book, I learned that the American Eugenics Society -- the one whose funding dried up in the 1930s when the Nazis began to explore racial [hygiene] too -- used to be housed in Cold Spring Harbor, NY. Guess who occupies the same space, today? The Human Genome Project… which many consider "today's eugenics". This was just too much of a coincidence for me, and I started to consider the way this massive, cutting edge science we're on the brink of exploding into was similar… and different from… the eugenics programs and sterilization laws in America in the 1930s. Once again, you've got science that is only as ethical as the people who are researching and implementing it -- and once again, in the wake of such intense scientific advancement, what's falling by the wayside are the emotions involved in the case by case scenarios. I heard about a couple in America that successfully conceived a sibling that was a bone marrow match for his older sister, a girl suffering from a rare form of leukemia. His cord blood cells were given to the sister, who is still (several years later) in remission. But I started to wonder… what if she ever, sadly, goes out of remission? Will the boy feel responsible? Will he wonder if the only reason he was born was because his sister was sick? When I started to look more deeply at the family dynamics and how stem cell research might cause an impact, I came up with the story of the Fitzgeralds.
You can read the rest of the interview here. A trailer for the film is below the jump.
(Image © Atria Books)