Are Our Children A Means To An End?

Jennifer Lahl

I recently read a fascinating ethics consult about the topic of savior siblings. A savior sibling refers to the creation of a genetically matched embryo that will be implanted, and after birth used to be the savior of a sick sibling in need of a donor.

Typically, the savior sibling provides bone marrow or stem cells from the umbilical cord blood, which is collected at birth and then transfused into the child who is ill and in need of a donor. The savior sibling may be needed once for the medical treatment of their sick sibling or on a repeated basis if needed.

The creation of the savior sibling takes place in the laboratory. Eggs are harvested from the mother. Sperm is collected from the father. Embryos are created in the lab and through pre-implantation genetic diagnostic testing (PGD), the embryos are screened and the embryo that is the genetic match for the sick sibling is implanted into the motherís womb. The other embryos are typically discarded as they arenít a suitable match.

This ethics consult asked first the question, ďIs it ethical to help a family conceive a child whom they would give up for adoption to their neighbors, but use for marrow donation when the child is physically old enough?Ē The poll showed that 32 percent said it was ethical and 68 percent said it wasnít. So, in this particular case, the savior sibling was to be given to adoption at birth but used for their genetic material.

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