I saw an article yesterday about France, I think. Hang on. *runs off to google* Yep. I saw the article yesterday, though I guess it came out on the seventh about France having it's first 'savior sibling'. Which led me to toddle around the net looking the concept up.
Basically, what happens is that a child is born who winds up having a fatal disease, typically a form of cancer from what I've read, which can best be treated by a 'hematopoietic stem cell transplantation'. 'Hematopoietic' means the formation of blood cells in a living body. So the most effective treatment for the disease would be the transplant of uninfected matching stem cells (or an organ) into the child's body.
Where do they get these genetically compatible cells or organs? Well, that's the thing. It's hard to find compatible matches in the real world, apparently. The best chance is a parent, sibling or other relative. But given the genetic dice roll, there's no guarantee that a match will occur naturally. And then you're left with the world wide population of people who are willing donors. *holds fingers a tiny little bit apart* The chances seem to get smaller and smaller.
So what some people have done is to produce, on purpose, a child who is both a genetically compatible match to the afflicted child and free from the disease so that their cells/organ can be used to save the life (hopefully) of the first child. They do this by IVF, testing each zygote for compatibility and then only implanting a zygote that matches.
The procedure is, unsurprisingly, controversial.
1) What is done with the zygotes that are rejected? A zygote is a fertilized egg, and under certain views is a person at that point. The destruction of the zygotes, whether deliberate or simply through allowing them to remain frozen until their viability is passed (I don't know how long that would take or even if it happens. It's merely speculation.) would be the killing of a child, like abortion.
2) Genetic selection = eugenics. Yes, the use of it is meant to be a saving thing in this case. Lots of really horrible things start life out as a good idea. Something meant to benefit humanity. We already have cultures and people who 'select' for gender, typically to the detriment of female children. I've heard talk of 'designer babies' - where the baby is chosen on the genetic level for certain desired traits. Male, green eyes, dark brown hair, no baldness, etc. etc. etc.
3) Is it right to create a child for the sole purpose and benefit of another child? What about the care and affection for the savior sibling? The right to their own life, not as a useful extension of the first child, but in their own right? I'm not saying that the parents of such children view them as 'spare parts', of course. I can't imagine anyone doing that. I'm just throwing out the ethical issue that I've seen raised.
There's a book by Jodi Picoult on this topic called, My Sister's Keeper. I haven't read it, or seen the movie, but I do intend to pick the book up and read it. I love Picoult, but I have to space her out. She writes 'real life' works, not monsters and aliens, which is my usual fair. And her subject matter and the skill with which she writes makes them all heart wrenching. So I have to pace myself with her.
Thoughts? Have I missed something?