The subject of savior siblings is a complex dilemma that encompasses multiple issues. Is it ethical to have a child in order to save another? Is pre-implantation genetic testing moral? Can parents make the decisions for their kids about organ donation? In order for this ethical dilemma to be resolved these questions need to be answered. In the case of Molly Nash, the family was not morally culpable for their decision to have another child to save Molly’s life because Adam was not born solely to save his sister’s life and because the methods used to save Molly’s life had no adverse effects on Adam.
Using preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to obtain a healthy embryo to be used as a savior sibling raises the ethical concern that the baby will be used exclusively as a means to save another child and will not be valued in his or her own right. This would directly violate the Kantian ethic which states that people are valuable in themselves and should not be used solely to serve the will of others (Johnson, 2004). However, in this specific case, the Nash family clearly expressed that they were already planning on having another child and that saving Molly was not their only motivation for wanting to do so.
Because the family did not use Adam solely as a stem cell donor, they did not violate Kant’s original principle. The Nash family did not use Adam to save Molly and then abandon him once he served his purpose; he was instead loved and treated as a human being. If the family were planning on taking an organ or bone marrow from the newborn, the argument that the child was created solely to serve the express needs of his/her sibling would have more weight. Since all that was taken from Adam were stem cells from the umbilical chord, he was left unaffected and no moral wrongs were performed.
The parents viewed PGD as a method that could potentially give them a healthy child, while saving the life of their other child. Because it was considered moral to use Adam as a savior sibling, it is now important to address whether PGD is an acceptable practice to obtain healthy embryos. There are two main ethical objections that make PGD a controversial technique (Robertson, 2003). The first issue with PGD involves the discarding of embryos that are deemed useless because they are afflicted with a genetic disorder or are non-compatible tissue donors.
This issue draws many similarities to abortion and embryonic research debates in that it is primarily concerned with embryonic status. A widely accepted judgment on what constitutes embryonic status may never be reached, but it is important to note the circumstances in which PGD was used in this situation. The Nash family never discarded healthy embryos; instead they saved the embryos so they could have another child in the future, which they eventually did.
It is also important to note that both parents were carriers for fanconi anemia, which means if they had another child via a natural pregnancy, the child have would have a 25% chance of being afflicted with the genetic disease. The end result of using PGD (two healthy children) seems to be a clear justification of using the method and in this case the ends certainly justified the means. The second issue that PGD raises involves speculation that it may result in increased genetic selection and manipulation of offspring.
This slippery slope argument arises from the fear that increased genetic screening will eventually lead to genetic engineering and drive us into an eugenic world where “designer babies” will be valued for their DNA rather than their innate characteristics (Boyle and Savulescu, 2001). To disprove this argument, it is essential that a distinction be made between using PGD to obtain a healthy embryo that can be used to save another child and using genetic screening to create designer babies. In the case of savior siblings there is an important reason for using genetic screening that does not apply to designer babies– saving a child’s life.
Therefore, the slippery slope argument fails to justify a ban on savior siblings because there are important differences between savior siblings and designer babies (Sheldon and Wilkinson, 2004). Nonetheless is important that the practice of PGD is properly regulated so that its abuse can be prevented. In the case of Molly Nash, PGD was ethically acceptable because it was done for the right reasons and had no negative consequences. The question of whether parents should be allowed to make decisions for their children about organ donation is difficult to answer.
The family is normally responsible for making decisions for those who are judged too young or incompetent to do so, but should they be able to elect for organ donation while the person is still living? It is clear that in this specific case nothing serious was taken from Adam Nash to donate to his sister. Because the transplant did not directly affect him, his parents were justified in using his chord blood to save Molly’s life. However, the situation changes when parents wish for their child to donate something more serious like bone marrow or a kidney.
In this case, the savior sibling is being put at risk and is making a huge sacrifice for their brother or sister. The parents should not have the right to make this decision for their child because of potential risk that is involved with these procedures. Only the person donating the tissue or organ should be able to make the decision of whether they want to do so or not. Savior siblings is a relatively new and controversial topic that needs further investigation to determine whether methods like PGD are completely safe.
If PGD is deemed harmless it should be considered an acceptable way of finding a healthy stem cell donor that can save the life of another child. The family of Molly Nash faced a serious dilemma and ultimately made the right decision to resolve it. They ended up with two healthy children and avoided losing one of their children to a horrible disease. Why should we prevent such procedures when no harm was caused? We must be reasonable and consider the positive outcomes that come with a practice that allows one to bring a new person into the world to help save another’s life.
Courtney from Study Moose
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