Top critical review
Reviewed in the United States on May 5, 2019
The story is about the Fitzgeralds. Brian and Sara have two kids: a boy Jesse and a girl Kate. When Jesse is 4 and Kate 2, she is diagnosed with cancer. She needs a bone marrow transplant. Her brother is not a match genetically for her, so a doctor suggests something called: Savior Sibling. That is a child specifically conceived (in vitro) and somewhat "designed" to be as close to a genetic match to the cancer stricken child so the baby can donate cord blood, bone marrow, tissue, regular blood, and possibly even organ donation. This actually does happen medically in real life. It is a huge moral dilemma with a lot of potential for good, but with a lot of potential for abuse.
First, let me say I am not a parent so I do not know what I would do or to what lengths I would go to save my cancer stricken child, but I will say, have read this book, watched the movie, and done my own research into Savior Siblings, I do find the concept very problematic.
In this book specifically, the Fitzgeralds do genetically design their third child, Anna, to be a genetic match to Kate with the hope that the cord blood at birth could be used to help Kate and that would be that. In a lot of Savior Sibling cases, I am sure that is that all that is required: cord blood, a one and done thing, and that's all she wrote, but that was not what happened in this story and that is not always the way it works in real life too. Anna was needed repeatedly throughout her life to provide blood, bone marrow to her sister to help prolong her life and in the end, they want 13 year old Anna to provide a kidney to her sister as the sister has gone into renal failure due to all the cancer treatments she has had in her life.
Anna wants to be medically emancipated from her parents because she does not wish to continue to be a donor to her sister. There is a court hearing on this matter, and in the end Anna does become medically emancipated from her parents, but then Anna dies immediately in a car accident and so her kidney is harvested for her sister and her sister goes on to live her life.
This ending I did not like. I know the author wanted to "shock" the audience, but I just ended up feeling sorry for Anna. She was used the entirety of her life for the sake of her sister, and in the end, she just dies.
I honestly felt the author did not portray any real parental love the Fitzgeralds may have felt for Anna. It is made very clear the parents love Kate, but to me, I just never felt like the parents cared all that much for Anna, and they didn't care all that much for their son Jesse. Kate's cancer was the big issue in the family and nobody mattered in that family but Kate. Jesse was not a match to help his sister with her cancer, so he was of no signifigance to his parents, and Anna only mattered to them because she was supposed to save her sister. She wasn't a person to either parent. She was a bought and paid for commodity and they were going to use her up to save her sister. That's how I felt anyway. The parents just never seemed even to consider Anna's wants or needs to any degree. That is what left a horrible taste in my mouth.
And that is also why I think Savior Siblings can be so horribly abused in these type of cases: they really are a bought and paid for commodity who are being used for the medical benefit of their sick siblings. Most people want to help their siblings in similar situations, but you know, being designed so you specifically genetically match that sibling for the express intent of being used medically thereafter, is a distasteful prospect. Providing cord blood, regular blood donation, even bone marrow, wouldn't be that horrible a thing, but what happens when the treatment to save the sick child continues on for years into the future. Are Savior Siblings expected to provide what is necessary every time the sick child requires it? At what point, is that trading one child's life for another child's life? That to me is the real dark underbelly of creating a Savior Sibling, and why some regulation needs to be in place in cases like this and why parents may not always be the best arbiter for their children in these cases. A third, disinterested party, may need to be assigned to speak up for the Savior Sibling, because the parents have a real conflict of interest in these type of decisions. The duty of care parents have to their children is huge and in a case where you have a sick kid who can be medically benefitted by the healthy kid, how do you determine the parents are exercising an unbiased duty of care to both children when the interests of these children are polar opposites! That to me is a real problem, as highlighted in the book.
Just my two cents.