Social Question

TheJoker's avatar

How do you feel about 'saviour siblings'?

Asked by TheJoker (2795points) February 17th, 2010

This is in relation to in which a family are trying to have another baby, in order that the baby can donate bone marrow which could save their existing childs life.

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58 Answers

Dr_Dredd's avatar

People have children for many reasons; I don’t think this is necessarily a bad reason to have a baby. However, the parents need to make sure that the new child is not treated as an object or means to an end. The new child needs to be loved and cherished in its own right.

Val123's avatar

They have a movie out about just that. Of course, I read the book instead. It was from the “savior sibling’s” POV and it was quite interesting.

Blackberry's avatar

Whoa…..This is strange. I mean… sounds bad if you read about it, but I’m sure the child won’t be mistreated. It’s not any different than me donating blood to someone that needs it. My life isn’t changed by it.

stump's avatar

I think it is terrible. It is exactly why people are afraid of cloning; making people just for spare parts.

Cruiser's avatar

I would hate to be in that position and probably would do the same. No greater gift to give than the gift of life.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

In the case of something like bone marrow, that is replaceable, no ethical problem. Where the real problem emerges is creating a baby or clone to serve as a donor for say a heart or liver.

Val123's avatar

@stump Well, it’s not like they don’t love the kid, regardless of the reason she was conceived! It’s not like they throw the kid away when they’re finished with her!

gailcalled's avatar

Read My Sister’s Keeper, a novel by Jodi Picoult.

OpryLeigh's avatar

As much as I can understand that a parent would want to do everything in their power to save their childs life I don’t think I agree with it. I have always been lead to believe and correct me if I am wrong that donating your bone marrow can be very painful and make you ill with weakness etc. If this is the case then I find it difficult to agree with bringing a child into the world in order to put it through pain and suffering to save another child from illness. Now, if the “saviour sibling” is old enough to decide for themselves then that’s a different story.

My opinion on this isn’t set in stone because I don’t know enough facts on how much pain etc the new child will go through in order to save the current child.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@Leanne1986 Bone marrow is usually donated under general anesthesia, so the person does not feel anything at all during the process. Afterward, people describe it as feeling like they got kicked in the butt, but this only lasts for a week or two.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@Dr_Dredd Thanks for the clarification.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@Leanne1986 You’re welcome. I’ve never donated bone marrow through the traditional process, but I did donate bone marrow stem cells a few years back. That was even easier. It was like donating plasma or platelets, after receiving a week of growth factor shots.

casheroo's avatar

I don’t like that it doesn’t put the other persons feelings into consideration at all. Maybe they don’t want to donate.
I have no clue what I’d do in the position of needing a donor for my child.

stump's avatar

In every facet of life there are things that are convenient and/or effective that you just shouldn’t do. In the medical field, you don’t take organs or tissue from someone without their consent. How does an unborn person consent to being an organ donor?

OpryLeigh's avatar

@stump That’s the bit that I don’t like, the new child has absolutely no say or control over what happens to them when they are very young and if an adult was forced to give blood, bone marrow etc in some way then there would be uproar.

stump's avatar

@Leanne1986 You’re damn right.

HGl3ee's avatar

The only major issue I have with this is that the child being born to save it’s older sibling has no choice in the matter. The baby can’t say “No” and is, essentially, being forced to donate a part of their body. Donating is painful and potentially risky, baby or not that human has rights. Donating parts of one’s body is a choice, but the choice is in the hands of the one who is donating, no one else has that right.

Trillian's avatar

Well, it also reduces the child to a spare parts factory, doesn’t it? they are basically telling the child; “You’re here for this purpose. period.” I tell my kids that I had them to wash the dishes, but they know I’m kidding. Imagine how a child would feel knowing that it was only brought into the world for the sake of another. What incredible pressure it would be under, not daring to feel free to object, not able to feel independent as a person. Talk about repressed resentment. I can understand loving a child so much that one is willing to do anything to save it, but I think I’d draw the line at producing another child and placing that burden on it.

wundayatta's avatar

The bone marrow would have been taken long before the child was old enough to know, I’m guessing. I think that child would probably have experienced a lot more love, as a savior, than an ordinary child. I think it probably would feel quite wanted.

Val123's avatar

@gailcalled Yes, “My Sister’s Keeper.” That was the book. It addressed all of the issues that everyone is bringing up. It starts with her (the ‘Savior Sibling’) being 13 (I think) and becoming aware that she doesn’t have to do this. But her sister will die if she doesn’t. It really explores all of the emotional tangle of the situation, including her own feelings about what she was originally brought into the world for.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I agree with others who say it’s a gift of love and life. I can’t imagine the parents loving the new child any less and they might end up having a special reverence for the fact that child brought ease and maybe survival to the other. If I had a sibling who was conceived in order that I might live, you bet I’d love them and think they were the greatest person walking!

Val123's avatar

There are a lot of reason kids get brought into this world. Sadly, sometimes it’s just by accident and they aren’t really wanted. So even though the child is conceived for a rather questionable reason, it’s done out of love, and both the kids are actually wanted.

susanc's avatar

Yep. It depends on the particular people. Not on us.

Personally, I agree with @wundayatta 300%.

Val123's avatar

@susanc I don’t know anything about it, but in the book “My Sister’s Keeper” it was an ongoing thing… was coming up again when she was 13, and she had a decision to make….

stump's avatar

What if the sick sibling died? How would you feel knowing you were born to save your brother, but failed?

Val123's avatar

@stump That’s where good parenting, from the very beginning, is crucial.

Arisztid's avatar

My feelings are mixed over this.

IF the parents want the other sibling for him or herself, not having the child only because they want to help the ill sibling, then I am heading towards ok with it as long as the well child is not going to be forced to go through procedure after procedure before s/he can be of the age to consent.

The situation in “Her Sister’s Keeper” would in NO way be acceptable on many levels. One of those levels is that the girl was subjected to these extreme procedures before she was of the age to consent or even understand why they were happening.

If the child is being conceived only to help an ill child, I wholly disagree with it. As @Dr_Dredd said, that would be using the child as an object.

As @stranger_in_a_strange_land said, this would be heading into the clone debate.

End all as far as I am concerned: no child should be born for any reason other than as a child him or herself out of love. A child should not be conceived as a tool. If I was a father, which I am not, and had a child with medical illnesses like we are discussing, I would not have another child just to save the first. IF I had another child, it would be because I wanted the other child as him and herself.

If I had two children and one came down with an illness that the other could save, I would be absolutely torn as to whether or not to have procedures done that would cause the other child pain unless the child was of age to give informed consent for such. It would tear me to no ends but, if the child was of age to give informed consent and denied it, I would not force. I would do my best to convince, but if the child said “no” that would be their right.

knitfroggy's avatar

It’s hard to know how you would feel. I would do anything to save one of my children.

Val123's avatar

@knitfroggy Exactly.

Also…is having a child for that reason any different than having two girls, and having a 3rd child a little later in life, hoping you’d get a boy…and it turns out to be another girl? I mean, would you love that 3rd child any less because she wasn’t what you were hoping for?

Sophief's avatar

How about if the baby isn’t a match? When he grows he’ll feel awful, knowing he was only made to save his brother and then couldn’t save him, might as well hand him a gun there and then.

Val123's avatar

@Dibley Well, for crying out loud. If the parents instill in the kid the idea that he’s a “failure” for not being a match, they should be shot! There is no reason on earth that a kid would feel that way without raising him to feel that way!

Sophief's avatar

@Val123 I’m just saying he’ll want to know how and why he came into the world, if the other child dies then the parents are going to tell him that. He could be strong enough to overcome that. I know if I was in the situation I would just crumble.

Val123's avatar

@Dibley I never asked “how and why” I was brought into the world….I would hope that a parent who cared for a child would simply say “You’re here because we want you here.” If they weren’t a match, I would hope that the parents would never, ever bring the whole “Savior sibling” thing up. What could possibly be the point? If you wound up with a daughter when you really wanted a boy, would you really raise your daughter knowing that? Or would you just never mention it at all? I would never even mention it. Totally pointless, and hurtful.

Sophief's avatar

@Val123 Not every parent in the world are good parents. I agree with you, but unfortunately the world doesn’t work like that.

Val123's avatar

@Dibley I understand that. But hopefully a parent who loves a child enough to do anything at all that they can for them to save their lives, AND have the means to do it with, would fall more closely in line with the good parents than the bad…..

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I, too, have mixed feelings – a pregnancy and a whole other child – that’s no easy decision, it’s not like getting another kitten or something. I would have to be guaranteed that this transplant of bone marrow would significantly increase the survival rate of my child. I would also have to be in a place where I wanted to have more children. If someone would ask me now, I’d probably say okay because we’re planning on more anyway. But what if the savior child ends up with the same problem?

CaptainHarley's avatar

I can think of a thousand worse reasons for being born.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

If a child is conceived and raised to provide life-saying parts for a sibling, then regardless of outcome, that child’s ability to define the purpose of their life as they grow may be seriously undermined.

Each child is born to be themselves and nothing more. If they have the opportunity to make an inform choice to donate body components to benefit another, then they must have the unfettered right to refuse. I understand the urgent medical needs involved and that sometimes desperate parents make these choices to save an older, sick child at the expense no matter how small, of the younger child. I can only speculate on the long term emotional challenges of being bred for spare parts.

CaptainHarley's avatar


I understand your position perfectly, but you obviously live a somewhat sheltered life; one might even say “cloistered.” There are children born every year who are the products of rape, incest, and other abusive means. What do you propose we do about their “ability to define the purpose of their lives?” Or what about those born into extreme poverty? I daresay that the offspring concieved, at least in part, as marrow donor for an older sibling, is light-years better off than those I listed. I obviously cannot speak for other parents, but if I had a child whose birth was at least in part an attempt to medically help an older sibling, that child would be adored. I don’t dispute the medical aspects with you, just the outcomes you posit.

YARNLADY's avatar

People do it frequently, but most aren’t public about it. I see nothing wrong with it, as long as the parents are wise enough to keep it to themselves.

When this situation was dramatized for TV, they had the doctors testing the prospective fetus to see if it was a match, with the possibility of destroying the ones that didn’t. This seems wrong to me.

CaptainHarley's avatar


I agree, it does seem wrong. Then again, I personally know a couple who aborted two girl babies in order to get a boy. That also seems very wrong to me. I do NOT want to get into another abortion discussion, but this has relevance to the current discussion.

Nullo's avatar

That seems pretty low. :\

CaptainHarley's avatar


I agree, which is one reason why they are no longer friends of mine.

TheJoker's avatar

@Dibley I’ve got to say that is the issue that bothers me. What is the potential Psychological upshot of this. What if the new child isnt a match? How will the new child feeel about being concieved purely as a cure? etc

TheJoker's avatar

@Val123 I appeciate what you’re saying but lots of parents are just rubbish. I was told quite frequently by my mum how disappointed she was that I wasn’t a girl… she even described the happy image of her being told I was a boy & her bursting into tears, even went on to tell me what my name would have been.

Sophief's avatar

@TheJoker Exactly, if a parent wants something really badly, like you said your mum wanted a girl, then she’ll tell you, not to hurt you but to express her feelings at that time. Plus children will ask, didn’t you want a son, or a daughter and then feelings just come out.

TheJoker's avatar

@Dibley Quite right, it’s not a deliberate thing, but given that you’ll be living with them for, say, 18yrs, there’s a good chance it’ll come to light at some point.

OpryLeigh's avatar

@CaptainHarley I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with you because I am still unsure on my own feelings about this subject but surely, just because there are worse reasons to be born doesn’t mean that this reason is right.

Val123's avatar

@TheJoker I’m sorry that happened to you. That really, really sucks. My point is, yes, it can happen, and it does. But you can only hope that it won’t.

@Dr_Lawrence and all who are fixated on the child being “bred for body parts…” People seem to assume that the child will be raised with that “function” in the forefront. As though they will be neglected and abandoned until their “services are needed.” Like, the parents won’t even bother sending them to school or something. I would think that once you have a baby in your arms, it becomes just that…your own child, for what ever reason the child was conceived.

As far as being of consenting age: How would it really be any different than if a pre-existing sibling was a match for, say, a younger sibling who needed a bone marrow transplant? Or a blood transfusion? Or anything else that wouldn’t risk the life of the donor sibling? Could you rationalize letting the child who needed the transplant die because the sibling wasn’t legally old enough to consent?

This argument is going around as though the child was conceived to donate a heart or something! And that is just not the case.

I feel that @CaptainHarley‘s acquaintances, who aborted female fetuses, were far more ethically sick than anyone or anything else. To that end, do you think his parents are raising this kid with the knowledge that his gender was so important to them that they killed off viable sisters to get him? How would he handle that knowledge? I can’t believe they did that. I want to punch them.

CaptainHarley's avatar


What works for me might not work for anyone else. This, like many value judgments in today’s world, is for each individual to decide.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@Val123 I agree regarding the consenting age. Plus, there is the possibility of harm if the sibling isn’t allowed to donate marrow. If he/she really loves the sibling with the disease, might the sibling without the disease feel guilty about not being able to do anything.

Val123's avatar

@Dr_Dredd Exactly. You should really read “My Sister’s Keeper.” That book addresses all of these issues we’ve been discussing.

This all reminds me of a supposedly true story about a little girl who was asked to donate blood to her sick older brother. The little girl got tears in her eyes when she was asked to donate, but she shakily said yes, she would do that. So, the older brother was in one bed, the little sister was in the other, tubes running between them. The little girl was very, very quiet. After several minutes she whispered “How long until I die?”

Whether it’s true or not, that story always gives me chills.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@Val123 It’s on my reading list. :-)

TheJoker's avatar

@Val123 Hope….. To me, when it comes to children, I dont think ‘hope’ is good enough.

Val123's avatar

@TheJoker Of course it’s not “enough”. But sometimes hope is all you get. We can’t control how other people raise their children. All we can do is hope that they do a good job.

TheJoker's avatar

@Val123 Fingers crossed, eh!

Val123's avatar


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