Wayland Baptist University
An Ethical Discussion of My Sister's Keeper
Introduction and Thesis: Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) to provide a genetically matched donor for an older sick child and to use the organs of the younger to the medical benefit of the elder is not morally justifiable using rule utilitarian ethical theory. This principle is not justifiable due to both the nature of the proposed rule regarding PGD and, primarily, to the nature of utilitarian ethical philosophy in general. Arguments Supporting Thesis: Rule utilitarianism is a moral philosophy holding that general rules for moral guidance should be developed that will act as an aid in making ethical decisions. For example, one such rule might by that one ought to keep promises. Given this general rule, when faced with a moral decision, an individual should look at the list of rules and see if any of these rules apply to the current situation. Using the above example, if the situation involves keeping a promise or not, then one should keep the promise. According to this philosophy, even if the consequences of a particular act of promise keeping are bad, the person behaving in accordance with the established utilitarian rule is morally not at fault. However in an attempt to establish a new utilitarian moral rule, each individual event will affect the attempt to establish a moral rule. This ethical theory requires development of rules of action based on the potential rule's likelihood to bring about the most good for the most people. For the purposes of this discussion a reasonable rule would be: parents should use PGD to provide a genetically matched donor for an older child and use the expendable organs of the younger child to repair life threatening medical conditions of the older. For the sake of argument, this paper assumes that any procedures that would necessarily result in the death of the younger child would not be performed. For example, if the elder child needs a heart transplant, this rule could not be used to justify the death of the younger by removing the younger sibling's heart and transplanting it into the elder. The suggested rule makes use of other, more fundamental utilitarian rules such as one shouldn't cause pain or one should prevent pain. Neither of these rules in itself is sufficient to establish the more specific utilitarian rule suggested in the preceding paragraph. To determine if this potential utilitarian rule should be adopted, some cases, using Picoult's novel My Sister's Keeper as a springboard should be examined. The first case to examine is the simplest case. If the proposed rule proves inadequate for a simple application, it is unlikely that more complex, and more realistic scenarios will be adequately served by the proposed rule. The simplest case within this context would be the case originally conceived of by Kate's parents, Sara and Brian Fitzgerald. In this scenario Sara and Brian had two children, the elder, Jesse, is approximately seven years old. His little sister, Kate is a about two years old when she is diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). Since Jesse is not a compatible donor, her parents elect to use PGD to produce a genetically compatible donor as a potential solution for their daughter's health problem. Initially, the younger daughter, Anna, is to be used to donate blood cells from the umbilical cord to provide needed blood cells for Kate. Theoretically, these cells would put Kate's APL into remission and that would be the end of medical treatment. All three children would be healthy, have little or no memories of the procedure and the Fitzgerald family would live happily ever after. Does this scenario provide the greatest good for the most people? Although others are involved in My Sister's Keeper, such as the nurses, surgeons, and hospital staff, it is reasonable to consider just...