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Ethical Dilemmas: My Sister’s Keeper

My wife and I watched My Sister’s Keeper from Netflix this weekend.  Here’s the Netflix description:

A former defense attorney (Cameron Diaz) finds herself back in the courtroom when she and her husband (Jason Patric) are sued for medical emancipation by their 11-year-old daughter, Anna (Abigail Breslin), who is expected to donate a kidney to her dying older sister. The subsequent trial tests ethical boundaries and the limits of parental love. Joan Cusack and Alec Baldwin round out the cast in this powerful drama based on Jodi Picoult’s novel.

My wife said the book is quite a bit different than the movie.  If you want to see it fresh, stop reading now.  Otherwise, I have some spoilers below to talk about some of the ethical dilemmas from the movie.The family has 2 children–a boy and a girl.  The girl is diagnosed with Leukemia.  She needs a donor, but none of the family is a match.  The doctor says that the couple could conceive a genetically engineered baby to be a donor.  So here are the ethical questions.

1.  Is it ethical for the doctor to suggest genetically engineering for the purpose of donating?

2.  It is ethical for the couple to conceive a child for the purpose of saving another child’s life?

As the movie goes on, the genetically engineered sister becomes tired of all the medical procedures, and sues her parents for medical emancipation.

3.  Is it ethical for the parents to force a child to donate to her dying sister?

Ok, at this point, this is where the book and the movie diverge, so if you really want to watch the movie/read the book, STOP READING NOW.

The mother (played by Cameron Diaz) is a very determined mother who won’t let anything or anyone get in the way of what she believes is in the best interest of her dying child.  The dying girl tires so much of all the medical procedures and being sick all the time that she asks her younger sister to sue her parents.  They make a pact that the younger girl will take all the blame, because the mother will not accept her dying daughter’s wishes.  The whole family accepts the patient’s choice except the mother.

4.  Is it ethical to keep a person alive against their will?  Does the age of the patient have any impact on the decision?

In case you’re interested, I previously blogged about Euthanasia at Mormon Matters, comparing 4 cases.  What are your opinions?

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