Bioethics Blogs

Is it ethical for parents to create a savior sibling?

Savior siblings are children who are born to provide HLA compatible body parts, typically umbilical cord blood to be used for bone marrow transplantation, in order to save the life of their older sibling. They are created using IVF so that the embryos can be screened in order to find and implant one that is a match to the existing child. The first savior sibling, Adam Nash, was born in the US was born in 2000. Lisa and Jack Nash decided to create a savior sibling after their doctor suggested it might be the best option for a cure for their daughter Molly, who was born with a severe type of Fanconi anemia. Immediately after Adam was born, Molly received a bone marrow transplant using the umbilical cord blood from her brother. The notion of savior siblings gained more attention with Jodi Picoult’s book My Sister’s Keeper and the movie based on the book. In contrast to Adam Nash, the savior sibling in the book and movie is expected to continue giving bodily to her sister throughout her childhood, including organ transplantation, rather than one time umbilical cord donation.

Is it ethical for parents to create a savior sibling? Some argue that the parents’ intention plays a role in considering whether it is ethical to create a savior sibling. If the parents were not planning on having any more children and they are the having the savior sibling only for the sake of the older child, then there is the concern of using the savior sibling as a means to an end.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.