Sunday, March 22, 2009

My Sister's Keeper: Designer Babies & the Right to Choose

The craze over "designer babies" has created quit a stir in the scientific world. For those readers who are unfamiliar with the term, "designer babies" are genetically modified embryos, which are free from disease and imperfections. These embryos are created by doctors and parents, taking the most wanted qualities from both parents and implementing them into an embryo. Parents are able to choose the sex, hair colour, eye colour, height, etc. of their child, impregnate the female using IVF and nine months later, the perfect human being is born. Scary, isn't it?
Sometimes this so-called "gene therapy" is necessary in order to reduce the risk of genetic illnesses that a child can contract through both biological parents. But the case of Anna Fitzgerald, a thirteen year old "designer baby", is different.

Anna is the main character in Jody Picoult's novel "My Sister's Keeper". In short, after Anna's older sister, Kate, was diagnosed with leukemia in toddlerhood, and her younger brother Jesse was not a genetic match for a bone marrow transplant, the Fitzgerald's thought they were going to watch their daughter die. That is...until they came across gene therapy. Through the elimination process, Sara Fitzgerald was implanted with a genetically modified embryo, a child created unnaturally that would be the perfect match for Kate's blood type, bone marrow type, etc. This child is Anna, who was given life in order to be a living organ supply for her sister. Whenever Kate needs blood, Anna is poked with a needle. When Kate needed bone marrow, Anna was sent into surgery without hesitation. Well, now Kate needs a kidney, and if she doesn't, she will die.

The book begins with Anna as the narrator, she is requesting the right to deny surgery in order to remove one of her kidneys, which would be given to her sister. Anna is fighting for rights to her own body, she wants to be emancipated from her parents. Throughout the novel, although Anna narrates most of the chapters (each chapter is narrated by a different character with a different viewpoint), she never discusses WHY she wants the freedom to choose whether or not to give her sister something, a kidney or whatever it is, that could save her life. The reader doesn't find out until the end that Anna is fighting for her right to choose because her sister doesn't want the kidney. Kate is tired of fighting leukemia, and knows that her parents wouldn't allow her to die without a fight. In the end, Anna is doing what her sister requested, she's not going to save her life because Kate doesn't want to be saved.

I have to tell you, the end of this book is the saddest sequence of events I've ever read. I finished this book on the train home from Toronto. I had just say goodbye to my boyfriend for the next 2 and a half months and I wasn't crying because I left him (sorry hunny), I was crying because of the ending of this book. I won't spoil the ending for you, but I will say this- the bond between siblings is unbreakable. I know that I would do anything for my sister, but I'm not sure if I would have the courage to watch her willingly lose a battle to cancer like Anna would. For a thirteen year old, she knows much more about herself than most people learn in a lifetime.


  1. I loved this book, it made me cry too. I didn't see that ending coming at all.
    Ps.. you put that Jesse is Kate's younger brother, but I'm pretty sure he was older if I remember correctly.
    I don't know if you are gonna post anything about the movie coming up.. but I wish Cameron Diaz wasn't in it.. I just don't like her.
    Anyway, this was such a good book. Jodi Picoult is a great writer. (I recommend The Pact if you haven't read it)

  2. Thanks Courtney,
    I could be wrong about Jesse's age, I'm going to look it up just to make sure. I agree on Cameron Diaz playing Sara, she's not how I pictured Sara at all. Hopefully the movie is as great at the book, and thanks for the recommendation!

  3. I have also read my sister's keeper. I agree with you that the ending is quite heartrending. It is juz so sad that a 13 year old girl died in a car crash and her sister lived because she died. Can you imagine that in the movie, they said that Kate did die? How ridiculous!!