Savior Siblings

By: Erin Payne & Akshara Parashar

What are "savior siblings?"

A savior sibling is an individual who is born with the sole purpose of providing an organ or cell transplant to an existing sibling with a fatal disease. Savior siblings are generally conceived through the use of modern reproductive techniques such as vitro fertilization. Before the child’s birth, multiple embryos are created and selected through the process of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). With PGD, doctors can personally select an embryo free of genetic disorder with compatible human leucocyte antigen typing to that of the previous child.

So what's the moral dilemma?

In the case of savior siblings, majority must service their relative as a child. Because a child is born as a minor under the legal supervision of their parents or guardian, many do not have the right to keep or sacrifice their own organs and/or cells. In order for a savior sibling to gain the right to the preservation of their own body, they must apply for medical emancipation. Medical emancipation is the right for an individual to make his or her own decisions regarding medical treatments. The individual will be able to decide what treatment they receive, how often they receive it and from whom they receive it from. It is these rights along with the ongoing use of savior siblings that makes this a controversial moral dilemma.


Should scientists be allowed to create savior siblings?

Like any disputable topic, there are two sides to every story. It is because of this, that we can never surely say as to whether scientists should be allowed to aid in the creation of savior siblings. But whether you agree or disagree with the existence of savior siblings, here are some of the major facts to both sides for you to make your decision:


PROS:

  • Savior siblings can provide life-saving resources for their “sick sibling.”

  • Savior siblings can potentially treat and cure many types of blood disorders with their umbilical cord blood; blood that is usually discarded at birth.

  • There is no risk of harm to a newborn cord blood donor.


CONS:

  • The savior sibling has nothing to gain from their donations.

  • Through this process, savior siblings have increased exposure to medical risk while not even being a patient.

  • Unlike organ donations, savior siblings are not given the immediate right to accept or decline their personal donations to their “sick sibling.”

Should scientists publicize this?

Whether you agree or disagree with the topic of savior siblings still remains entirely up to you, but either way you chose, the expansion of knowledge is never a negative thing. It is rather our personal utilization of such universal knowledge that can lead us to problematic events. It is for these reasons that even controversial subjects should be publicized (unbiasedly of course). Whether or not such subjects should be positively or negatively promoted still remains within the eyes of the beholder, but even then, knowledge should be shared. It is only through the growth of knowledge that society itself can grow in morality and ethics to settle controversies like these.

Works Cited

Hunter, Raquel. "Medical Emancipation of a Minor: How to Do It, Why to Do It, Procedure, What It Is, How to Get It, When It Is Necessary." Mama's Health.com. Mama's Health. Web. 15 Dec. 2014. <http://www.mamashealth.com/patient/medicalminor.asp>.


Jones, Andy. "After Successful Petition, Girl Finally Receives Kidney Transplant." After Successful Petition, Girl Finally Receives Kidney Transplant. Disability Rights Galaxy, 2 Aug. 2013. Web. 15 Dec. 2014. <http://disabilityrightsgalaxy.com/after-successful-petition-girl-finally-receives-kidney-transplant/>.


Lahl, Jennifer. "The Use of Children as Sibling Donors Is Unethical." Organ Donation. Ed. Laura Egendorf. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2013. Opposing Viewpoints. Rpt. from "My Sister's Savior." 2009. Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.


Nelson, Erin, and Timothy Caulfield. "Concerns About Savior Siblings Should Be Based on Facts." Organ Donation. Ed. Laura Egendorf. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2013. Opposing Viewpoints. Rpt. from "When It Comes to 'Saviour Siblings,' Let's Just Stick to the Facts." Globe and Mail 25 June 2009. Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 15 Dec. 2014.


"Savior Sibling." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Nov. 2014. Web. 15 Dec. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savior_sibling>.


"The Status of the Human Embryo." Saviour Siblings. Queen Mary, University of London. Web. 15 Dec. 2014. <http://embryo-ethics.smd.qmul.ac.uk/tutorials/embryo-and-the-law/saviour-siblings/>.