Savior Sibling: What would you do?
One of the most important hopes of any parent is to raise a happy and healthy child, and watch that child grow up and become an adult. What if one of those children had a disease that would one day claim his or her life? What if there was an option that could save your child’s life? To what lengths will parents go to save the life of a terminally ill child? A savior sibling is a child selected as a result of genetic screening to have some innate characteristics that will help save the life of an existing brother or sister (Saviour sibling). In 1990, Abe and Mary Ayala became the first successful publicized case in which a family sought to conceive a child (Marissa) to save another child (Anissa). Anissa was battling leukemia when her parents decided to conceive another child that was an exact bone marrow match. They gave birth to a healthy baby girl they named Marissa who at 14 months of age donated bone marrow that saved her sister’s life. Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis or PGD tests a woman’s embryos outside of her body for genetic sequence that are linked to a variety of conditions. PGD was developed for couples at risk for passing on a serious genetic mutation. Since 1999 it has been most widely used to prevent the birth of children with conditions such as Down syndrome, Tay-Sachs disease, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell, Huntington’s chorea, and Cooley’s anemia. However, PGD is increasingly being used for other reasons. These include social sex selection, creating “savior siblings” who can provide bone marrow and other transplant tissues to sick older siblings, and selecting against embryos with genes correlated with late-onset and non-fatal conditions. Some clinics have even offered the technique for purely cosmetic traits including eye color, hair color, and skin complexion (geneticsandsociety.org). It also contributes to concerns over the creation of what are critically called designer babies, though the...
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