Would Have One Child to Save Another? The Moral Dilemma of Savior Siblings

Doctors in France on Monday announced the country's first birth of a "savior sibling".

A "savior sibling" refers to the creation of a genetically matched human being, in order to be the savior of a sick child in need of a donor. This requires creating human embryos via in vitro fertilization, fertilizing the mother's egg with the father's sperm.

Then, using pre-implantation technology, the embryos are tested, and the one deemed genetically compatible is implanted into the mother's womb in order for the embryo to grow and develop. Once that baby is delivered, the cord blood is often collected because it provides a perfect match for the sick sibling. Later on, bone marrow, blood, or even organs, can also be taken and used for transplantation for the sick sibling.

France's first "savior sibling" was conceived through in vitro and born to parents of Turkish origin January 26 at the Antoine Beclere Hospital in Clamart, in the suburbs of Paris. The child's embryo was genetically selected to ensure he did not carry the gene for beta thalassemia, from which his siblings suffer, but was also a close enough match to provide treatment cells from umbilical chord blood, a rich source of stem cells.

Beta thalassemia produces an abnormal form of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells which carries oxygen around the body. It causes destruction of red blood cells, which in turn leads to anemia.

The world's first "savior sibling" was Adam Nash, born in the United States in 2000. Chicago doctors helped the Nash family conceive the baby boy who provided umbilical cord blood stem cells used to treat his sister Molly who was affected by a rare genetic condition called Fanconi's anaemia.

If not for the exact match from Adam, Molly would have died.

How do you feel about the concept of a savior sibling?

To read more about savior siblings and Adam's story, visit Babble's Being Pregnant.


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