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The day you’re born, you live for two

Abigail, Dartford Grammar School for Girls, UK

You’re born for a purpose – not to live though. At least not necessarily for you to live, but rather your sibling. You’re born so your sibling can live. From birth it’s been blood transfusions and stem cells. You’ve had enough, now that you’re older and can decide for yourself but if you’ve had enough then your sibling dies. Because your sibling needs you… not exactly you but rather your body.

While there’s no official statistic regarding the number of saviour babies born each year, it’s estimated that approximately 1% of PGD that occurs in the US is used for the creation of saviour siblings (inviTRA article). A saviour sibling is a child who is conceived in order to provide stem cell transplants to treat a potentially life threatening disease such as cancer that a sibling suffers from when no other alternative is available.

On August 29th 2000, Adam Nash was born. Adam Nash made history by becoming the first baby to be born through the use of saviour sibling technology. Adam Nash, was born in hopes of being able to save his older sister Molly who was suffering from Fanconi Anaemia.

Fanconi Anaemia is an incredibly rare genetic disorder, affecting 1 in 136000 newborns, that causes a gradual failure of the bone marrow. Adam Nash’s umbilical cord was used to collect cells that would be required for Molly’s bone marrow transplant. Fortunately, the transplant surgery was successful and Molly is now a healthy adult.

In 2009, a film called ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ was produced. It was based lightly on the events of ‘The Nash family’ and told the story of a girl called Anna who was conceived to donate cells and tissue to her sister, Kate. In the film, Anna fights for the rights to her own body and we are able to recognise the detrimental effects that being a saviour sibling has on not only just Anna herself but others as well.

Saviour siblings remain a very controversial topic when it comes to the morality surrounding the use of technology to conceive one. Many believe it’s wrong to create saviour siblings because it’s thought a child should be conceived out of love and on the condition that the family purely just want another child. For many, it seems ethically wrong to have a child for the sake of saving another child.

On the other hand, it is argued that a saviour sibling isn’t solely born for the purpose of saving their sibling and additionally they are loved just as much as they would have been if conceived on the parents’ own merits.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding them, saviour siblings are becoming an increasingly more known solution for extremely rare diagnoses where an exact match is required.

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