Friday, January 29, 2010

My Sister's Keeper

I just watched My Sister's Keeper and I did like the movie- I enjoyed watching it and felt it was a thought provoking story- but the glaring in-accuracies threaten to send the wrong message regarding the use of Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis and the ethics surrounding solid organ transplant.

Now, Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) is a technology that can be used to select certain embryos for implantation in the mother. Just as described in the movie, a sibling may be "created" in this manner and specifically selected to be an HLA match to an ailing child.

But, normally, the cord blood is harvested, and that's typically where the use of the new sibling for "spare parts" ends. Once the cord blood has been used in a transplant, the sibling would not typically serve as a bone marrow reservoir. If the bone marrow transplant failed the sibling would NOT be a repeat donor.

Also, from my limited experience with transplant medicine, I've seen that PGD is NEVER used for the purpose of solid organ transplants. The doctor in the movie seemed that he would be on-board with the transplant, and the use of the younger sibling for this purpose. In real life, a doctor would NOT agree to this. Kidney donors are carefully selected, not just for their biological compatibility, but also for the emotional ability to cope with being involved in the transplant process. Organs are NEVER taken from an unwilling individual.

So, it was a sad and moving story, and I enjoyed the move for that, but it sends the message that PGD is used to create "spare parts" and gives the illusion that this technology presents ethical quandaries that in fact do not exist. Anyone reading this blog can be assured that American children are not currently being forced to give up their spare kidneys. Even if a (minor) child begged to give his or her kidney to an ailing sibling, the kidney would not change hands (abdomens?).

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