Building a Baby to Save a Child

When baby Adam Nash came in to the world in a Denver hospital in August of 2000, he was no surprise. His parents Lisa and Jack had been through four rounds of in vitro fertilization trying to make him. They created (and later destroyed) 12 other embryos before selecting Adam, a perfect genetic match for his sister Molly.

Molly suffered from a rare and potentially fatal genetic disease that can cause a failure of bone marrow production. After Adam’s birth, doctors used stem cells from his umbilical cord to create bone marrow for Molly. Today, she is in remission.

When author Jodi Picoult first read about this true-life story, she began to wonder, “What if [Molly] 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?”

As she started to look more deeply into the family dynamics that would be created in such a situation, she came up with the idea for her best-selling novel, recently turned film, My Sister’s Keeper.

My Sister’s Keeper tells the story of 11-year-old Anna Fitzgerald, whose parents created her to be a savior for her sister Kate, diagnosed with leukemia.

The story begins when older sister Kate finds her leukemia has resumed and her kidneys are failing. The problem is that her sister, Anna, does not want to donate a kidney. She has already endured years of painful bone marrow transplants to help Kate. So Anna decides to sue her parents for the rights to her own body.

It is then that audiences must wrestle with the choice Anna’s parents made to play God, creating a life in order to save a life.

The film also forces the audience to come face to face with the issue of childhood mortality. And as gut-wrenching and horrible as any illness such as leukemia is, it becomes clear how utterly hopeless such a diagnosis is for a family whose worldview has no ultimate hope. function fbs_click() {u=location.href.substring(0,location.href.lastIndexOf(‘/’));t=document.title;window.open(‘http://www.facebook.com/sharer.php?u=’+encodeURIComponent(u)+’&t=’+encodeURIComponent(t),’sharer’,'toolbar=0,status=0,width=626,height=436′);return false;}

Kate’s mother, Sara, borders on monomania when it comes to saving her daughter. Utterly impervious to the needs or feelings of Anna, her husband, her son, and ultimately Kate’s own wishes, Sara presses on for the kidney operation for her daughter, destroying her own family in the process.

Unlike the character of Sara in the film, Christians do not have to pin their hope to a savior sibling. Even in death, they have a real Savior, one whose triumph overcomes the grave. That very real Savior willingly gave his life so that as we grieve—even the death of a child—we do not do so as those without hope.

The film is rated PG13, and it contains some material that would be inappropriate for a teen audience. But the film should help spark a debate about the ethical and moral ramifications of reproductive technology and today’s eugenics movement.

Whether or not you choose to see the film, I hope you’ll come to our website, BreakPoint.org, and read an excellent article on this savior sibling issue, written by Jennifer Lahl, vice president of the Center for Bioethics.

Read it the article and share it with your friends. And use the release of My Sister’s Keeper as an opportunity to talk to others about what can happen when humans decide to play God.

My Sister’s Savior: Should We Take Life to Give Life?
Jennifer Lahl | BreakPoint Online | July 14 2009.

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  • Warren Jewell

    No matter how you go about accomplishing (if you can call it ‘accomplishment’) the utility of one human person to and for another, it is the slavery that the traditions that affect all of Judeao-Christianity have learned to abhor and worked to abolish.
    For historical example, of all the aspects of our country that have marred it’s exceptionalism,
    definitively, of morally- and morality-led and self-governing free people believing all everywhere should be morally- and morality-led and self-governing free peoples,
    our enslavement of the black race still has awful effects.

    But, to make a sibling a slave to another sibling – what horrors will our culture come up with next? Prior to such IVF infliction and infraction, there has been and still is the seeking of the undermining of the peoples of color by abortion, which ranks up there with actual slavery, eh? And – oh, yes, that’s right! – for future development for the sake of ‘national health’, the rationing of medical care to those for whom it is deemed – ironically – ‘no longer of any use’. Such would be to dispatch persons enslaved-unawares, and out of their dignity and into economic disposal.

  • Warren Jewell

    Yet, too, what a quandary for a Christian from every angle.

    Anna/Adam has been used, there is no doubt, and justice calls out for her to have respite and assurance of her individual dignity.

    However, in this latter event of her older sister’s collapse, now Anna can be heroic by her own choice to help her sister, Kate/Molly. She can give her dignity a majesty unbounded. Indeed, under the knife, choosing to shed her own blood and to give of her flesh to give it to another, she can be Passionately Christ-like as few others can be. Such choice in dignity to sacrifice would make her Eucharist personified in the merely humble human-only Anna. She would sort of be ‘playing God’ as only any of us can – to sacrifice of her own self for the good of another – to ‘lay down her life for another’.

    And, if Adam chooses so for his sister Molly, some day? None can blame him if he declines for having been through enough. But who can naysay his sanctity for ‘becoming his own dignity’ to save her?

  • Warren Jewell

    This article has me churning, mentally and spiritually.

    There is the note that Kate/Molly’s tragic decline brings us “face to face with the issue of childhood mortality”. But what of not simply the great risk but perhaps outright mortal act they would impose on Anna/Adam to keep the elder sibling alive?

    My head swims – it is to throw one child to the consuming flames of Moloch to save the other for temporal life! For if faith in eternal life in salvation portends, that the sick child dies is of no overriding occasion to cause the death of the other or any other child.

    Yet, it is not so very like the little Chinese girl destroyed (for abortion is coupled with female infanticide in Red China) that the family may have a son, instead? Just as such IVF may destroy so many embryo baby children to get THE ‘select’ child, what if the Chinese father has genetic inclinations to produce far more daughters than sons? How many baby girls might have to die between the Chinese government and the parents paying God? For an American example of harsh possibility, would Helen Keller have been permitted to live to be the triumphant example she became, if her parents could have just cast her off to her death in any way they could, once they realized they ‘just had a female child with severe disabilities’?

    Oh, may God have mercy on us. We are so far astray!

  • http://arkanabar.blogspot.com Arkanabar Ilarsadin

    Warren,
    Adam may or may not die, even should he go under the knife. What is little discussed here, but that I do not doubt is of great concern to Heaven, are Adam’s twelve brothers and sisters. Their parents had them conceived and tested, found them wanting, and had them slain — for no other reason than that they could *not* be used to save Molly.

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