ControverSunday: Saviour Siblings

by Ginger on March 6, 2011

in Mom Thoughts

It’s time for the monthly installment of ControverSunday. What is ControverSunday? It’s a collaborative blog meme, whereby the goal is to share, discuss and hear out different perspectives on parenting, society and other stuff that matters. All those who participate bring to the table a unique perspective and approach others with mutual respect. Participating is a way to build community, to learn something and to reflect and evaluate our own choices. If you’d like to join us, just let our hostess with the mostest Kathleen know!

This month’s ControverSunday is, indeed, a controversial subject. Inspired by this article, we’re looking at our thoughts on the idea of savior siblings–meaning, kids who are conceived for the possibility that their genes could help save their sick older siblings.

I have to say, my first reaction, before reading the article, was a big old HELL NO. I mean, I love my son, and I hope I never have to face an illness with him where this idea would even come into play. But to me the idea of conceiving a child to be a factory of spare parts for an existing child steps beyond the realm of wanting to save your child and into a realm of basically medical slavery and subjugation for the “savior” child.

Of course, then I read the article, and became a little more conflicted. Because the article, in essence, was talking about the unborn child’s cord blood.

Cord blood, and the encased stem cells, seem to represent a huge possibility in the medical world. I don’t know that enough testing has truly been done to determine the reality of the potential, but in my mind, it seems almost like a new frontier in medicine. And specifically, in medicine that can potentially be a perfect genetic fit for your family.

For some reason, this opened my mind a little about the idea of a savior sibling. I feel a little less…firmly in one camp or another. Because the whole idea of cord blood seems different than bone marrow, or even blood. The cord is not used by the new child. It’s not something that would only be removed in these cases–everyone loses their cord.

And yet, I still come down on the idea of why are you having a child? How will a child who was conceived (and in this case, chosen specifically for their genetic makeup) to save a sibling ever feel like they were really wanted for who they are? Wouldn’t that hang over the family forever? It’s not enough to put the normal sibling pressures on a child, but the pressure of keeping your sibling alive? I just…it seems wrong. Not medically, but from the standpoint of caring and loving each child.

I don’t know. I hope I’m never in a position where I have to make a call like this. But it just seems to me that conceiving a child specifically to SAVE another just holds too many landmines of pain and hurt down the road.

ControverSundays ControverSunday Topic: 'Saviour Siblings' March 6th 2011

Perpetua March 6, 2011 at 4:10 pm

You’re right, that’s where the decision really gets tough: not when it’s something as simple as cord blood, but when you are guaranteeing that your second child will be committed to the pain of bone marrow donation and possibly other procedures.

And I agree, it would be horrible for a kid to know that he exists “just” to save the other kid (and it would be impossible not to assume that your parents love that child more, would do more for that child, etc.)

Ugh. I’m going to go look at your puppy pics again.

Elizabeth March 6, 2011 at 7:57 pm

It might sound horrible to admit this, but I would do it without question. I don’t know if it is because I would give my own siblings any body part they needed or what, but the thought of having a potential solution for Hannah and not using it breaks my heart. I don’t know that we would ever make a big deal about it, especially if it was only the cord blood. I want more than one child, so I’d happily adjust that timeline if it meant doing something tremendous for the child I already have.

This is right out of a Jodi Picoult book. 😉

Ginger March 6, 2011 at 8:32 pm

See, but to me that’s different. You’re already planning on having another kid–adjusting your timeline is different to me than having another kid after deciding not to have more JUST to save your other child. That’s the slippery slope for me.

clara March 7, 2011 at 3:02 pm

I guess there is a point where the thought process goes from “just to save the other child” to “and also so that we can have one more child.” I mean, people have to know that they will end up with two children, one of whom is very sick. I am hoping there are counselors at the ready to really bring that point home.

I agree with you that it would be an incredibly difficult thing to do..for the kids and the parents. Like you say, sibling relationships are complicated enough. But – on the flip side, they will be complicated anyway. I don’t know that the trauma would scale … that two kids who are linked by cord blood would be any more prone to sibling BS than two kids who are healthy and typical, or that the BS would be totally awful as opposed to the generally awful of two typical kids. (Where the second one is ‘accidental’, say. Or unexpected.) We can and do adapt.

That said. Of course I have no idea what I would do.

shasta March 8, 2011 at 9:01 am

As much as I would do anything to save Mittens, including possibly having another baby just for cord blood, that savior child would forever be the savior child. The sole reason for the existence of that child would be as a functional tool, and no matter how much you came to love and adore him or her, it would be impossible to forget the impetus for his or her conception. We banked Mittens’ cord blood for this very reason, though I pray we never have to use it.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: