Ethics are defined as, “moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity”. Based off of the best selling novel of 2004 by author Jodi Picoult , the film My Sister’s Keeper brings up many moral and ethical concerns that are prominent to modern day scientific technological advancement. To begin, the film is about the Fitzgerald family and their teenage daughter Kate that gets diagnosed with the aggressive cancerous disease Leukemia. Her parents decide to create another baby by genetically engineering it by suggestion of their doctor in order to use the baby girl to help with the medical aspects of the sick daughters illness to try to save her life. The savor child and genetically engineered daughter Anna eventually ends up filing an medical emancipation lawsuit towards her parents for the rights of her own body out of the wishes of her ill sister to die. There are several moral and ethical dilemmas that are expressed in the film by the situation the characters are put in such as the conception or creation of the “sister’s keeper” Anna. Furthermore the concept of universal human rights and finally the ethicals around the doctor helping them create the child.
The first ethical dilemma is the conception of the donor child Anna. This is both morally and scientifically unethical because of the issue of consent, and how the option of consent was not given to Anna. From birth, Anna did not have a choice with what do do with her own body if her parents told her she was going to get surgery for her sister then she did. In the movie Anna says, ‘I want to sue my parents for the rights to my own body.’ This was the first step in a long legal process that started when Anna met with a lawyer named Alexander Campbell per the request of her sister Kate to die. The legal battle brought up many issues involving the ethics around why Anna was created and how she should be able to have a life too and not just be Kate’s “sister’s keeper”. They argued that all of these procedures made Anna feel as though she was second to Kate and unimportant to her family. Anna shares this by saying, “As we got older, I didn’t seem to exist, except in relation to her”. This is morally unethical of the Fitzgerald parents to make Anna feel this way. It seemed to Anna that she was just a tool to use and that they did not actually love her. In the big picture this is morally corrupt of the parents to do this to one of the children because they did even ask her if she wanted to do it they just forced her into it.
The second ethical dilemma that is present throughout the film is universal human rights and how they were not applied to both Anna and Kate. From the moment Anna was conceived she was made for the purpose of a tool to help her ill sister Kate. She never got a say in what was going to happen to her, besides that she was also too young to say anything therefore did not know any better. This is shown by there family dynamic and her brother Jesse saying to her ‘Don’t mess with the system, Anna,’. We’ve all got our scripts down pat. Kate plays the Martyr. I’m the Lost Cause. And you, you’re the Peacekeeper.’ This is unethical and not fair because it seems that the family assigned labels and were ignorant to the fact that people were unhappy. Anna was the glue that was holding the family together by keeping Kate alive and making her parents happy, and that is a lot of stress for any person to handle. Anna got put in a morally difficult position going against her family in court but she wanted to do it for her sister and herself. Kate’s right were violated too because she stopped getting a say in her treatments, she wanted to let go and die and stop the suffering because she thought she was ready but her mother thought differently and fought to keep her alive even if it meant going against Anna. The disease weighed heavy on Kate and it made her feel responsible for her family’s decay. Kate says, “I know I’m going to die now. I suppose I’ve always known that. I just never knew when. And I’m okay with it. Really. I don’t mind my disease killing me. But it’s killing my family, too”. This is unethical because Kates dying wishes were not received and she felt responsible for her family fighting, both girls were put in difficult and compromising positions and felt responsibility and shame for their actions.
Finally, the last ethical dilemma is the ethical morals around the doctors suggesting genetic engineering to the Fitzgerald parents. The doctor in the film gave the parents the idea of intro fertilization and genetically engineering a baby to help there other daughter Kate. This is controversial because, “Since ancient times, beneficence has been a key principle of the medical profession, enshrined in the Hippocratic Oath and subsequent codes of medical ethics. Beneficence entails that physicians must always put the needs and welfare of patients first. By extension, bioscientists must always put the needs and welfare of human research subjects first.”
This further shows that the doctor did not make the ethically sound choice when providing the parents with this information because he knew the child that would be created (Anna) would just be used for her body parts an go through a tremendous amount of pain and suffering in order to help her sister. Suggesting this to the parents is both illegal and immoral of him because Anna did not give consent to do this but her parent more so forced her into it.
To conclude, sometimes doing the right thing in your eyes may cause suffering to others that you love. That is shown by both Kate and Anna’s actions in the film. They cause ethical issues by going to court and fighting their parents. Furthermore, although this film is filled with heavy topics of ethical and moral choices some that were ethically sound and some that were not, it is arguable that the parents should just have just let nature takes its course with Kates sickness. Although it is sad and tragic it was interfering with someone else’s life and that is immoral in itself.