My Sister’s Keeper

When I read the prompt for this week’s blog post, I immediately thought about the books by arguably my favorite author, Jodi Picoult.  While all of her books present some kind of ethical dilemma or quandary in small-town New England, I decided to go with My Sister’s Keeper because the 2009 film adaption starring Cameron Diaz and Abigail Breslin make this book more relevant than some of her others.

The novel tells the story of Sara and Brian Fitzgerald, a couple with two daughters– Anna (the younger of the two) and Kate — and a son, Jesse.  From a young age, Kate was plagued with a rare, ruthless form of leukemia that often does not respond well to treatments.  When it was clear that nobody in the family would be a match if Kate were ever to need a bone marrow transplant or anything of the sort, the oncologist made the harmless observation that any subsequent children could potentially be a match.  This planted the seed in Sara’s mind that they needed to have the perfect child in order to save Kate.  With the help of geneticists, the couple “created” what I will call a “super donor baby” (Anna) that would be a perfect match to Kate.  From the time she was born, Anna was saving her sister in one way or another.  In fact, immediately after she was born, doctors gave blood from her umbilical cord to Kate.  This pattern of giving to Kate continues throughout Anna’s life.

Finally — at the age of 13 when she is told that she will be donating a kidney to Kate — Anna simply decides she does not want to continue giving.  She is tired of the countless hospital trips and surgeries.  Outgoing Anna goes so far as to “hire” a lawyer in order to gain medical emancipation — a fancy term for getting the power to make her own medical decisions (as a minor, Anna had previously not been given this right).  Sara and Brian are obviously horrified over their daughter’s actions, and the novel follows the family over the course of the ensuing trial as Anna fights for her freedom and her parents’ understanding while her parents fight for what they believe is a matter of life or death for her sister.

From sick Kate to frustrated Anna, exhausted Sara and Brian, neglected Jesse, and other characters throughout the book, Jodi Picoult presents the reader with multiple questions of ethics.

Was it wrong for Brian and Sara to “conceive” their youngest child in the way they did?  Does Anna have the right to be responsible for how her body is used medically?  If she was born with the intent of helping Kate, is it fair for Anna to just give up knowing that it may hurt her sister in the long run?  Is it wrong for all of the focus to be on Anna and Kate with the oldest, Jesse, longing for attention?  And Kate — does she have a say in any of this?

I would highly recommend this book.  The movie (see the poster below) is also very good, but various details — including the endings — are COMPLETELY different, so you can definitely expect to be surprised if you read/see both of them.


6 thoughts on “My Sister’s Keeper

  1. I cried an embarrassing amount after reading this book. I actually ended up preferring the movie just because it made me cry less. Sara and Brian were in such a difficult position, trying to take care of Kate, but I’m not sure making a perfect donor baby was the best idea. They’d still be creating a real person who’d have thoughts and feelings, too – and Anna decided to act on them.

  2. Wow, what a great topic for this blog post! I remember reading this book back in high school and definitely having mixed emotions about the ethical dilemmas that are brought up. And to tell you the truth, I am still having a hard time deciding who is in the wrong. I’m not a parent, but I can understand their decision to conceive a match for the older daughter. My mom always tells me that once you are a parent, you will do anything in your power to keep your children safe. So with that being said, I don’t think what the parents did should be frowned upon. Maybe they just need to go about the issue in a different way. Maybe all Anna really wants is attention.

  3. I agree with Alli on the parental point- it’s hard to pass judgement on the actions of the parents, since I don’t actually have children of my own. It’s almost impossible to imagine being put in the position of any of the characters in the book, but back when the movie came out, I remember thinking that I would want to be an emancipated minor, same as Anna. I wonder if that perspective would change if I had children of my own.

  4. In a way, it almost seems like Sara and Brian were choosing the health of Kate over Anna’s well-being. I only saw the movie, but from what I remember, all of the surgeries Anna was undergoing, she was unable to live a normal life. Like Stephanie said, it is difficult to judge the situation and pass judgement, but it seems to me like Sara and Brian’s main concern was Kate.

  5. I found myself torn while reading your blog entry. I think you did a great job of representing both sides of the ethical argument, despite what your personal opinion may be. There are definitely arguments to be made for both views. Seeing the situation from the outside, my immediate inclination is to side with Anna, since she was born into this burden and deserves freedom. But at the same time, if I try to put myself in their parents shoes, I would probably be just as upset that Anna didn’t want to do everything possible to help Kate.

  6. Pingback: First Annual BGS Blog Olympics | Business, Society, and Government 4

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