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This fantastic Dilemma Friday comes courtesy of regular KKB reader Anon76, so thanks very much.

This week’s dilemma is as follows:

You and your husband have a beautiful little girl (let’s call her Megan). When she’s five years old, you discover that she’s developed Leukemia. You go to see all the specialists that you can, and they inform you that in order to keep her alive, she’s going to need constant blood transfusions, and various organs will have to be replaced throughout her probably short life.

You learn that one way of ensuring that Megan has a genetic match for the organs that she needs, is to have a another child.

What do you do? Do you engineer a child specially to save the child that you already have, or do you just keep up with the various treatments and pray for a miracle for Megan?

What would you do?

By the way, anybody interested in submitting a Dilemma Friday post, can do so by emailing me at hairylemony @ gmail. com (no spaces). I’ll be happy to post the decent ones on here over the next few Fridays.

33 Comments »


  • Ghetto Diva
    October 23
    12:15 pm

    You and your husband have a beautiful little girl (let’s call her Megan). When she’s five years old, you discover that she’s developed Leukemia. You go to see all the specialists that you can, and they inform you that in order to keep her alive, she’s going to need constant blood transfusions, and various organs will have to be replaced throughout her probably short life.

    You learn that one way of ensuring that Megan has a genetic match for the organs that she needs, is to have a another child.

    Honestly, if it were just blood transfusions, and the new baby, would be safe, then yes I would. But since your talking about organs, and the possibility of the new baby dying because of the donation of organs, I couldn’t do it.

    I have two kids, and as soon as I found out i was pregnant with them, I loved them completely, and for always. So having a third one, would be no different.

    I certainly would pray for a miracle. I believe 100% that God can do miracles.

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  • Have you ever read the book My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult (or, I guess, seen the movie?). The main narrator of the book is a child who was conceived for this purpose. It’s a fantastic book, though somewhat depressing as Picoult’s books can be.

    I don’t think I can ever say exactly what I’d do in a stress situation, but I’m fairly sure I would not have another baby for that reason.

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  • No. First of all, I’m pretty sure a sibling is not a guaranteed match for donating blood/organs/whatever. Better chance than a stranger, sure, but I don’t think it’s a 100% given. And if the first isn’t a match what are you going to do, keep popping them out until you get lucky?

    Second of all, imo it’s a selfish, cruel thing to do, to bring a person into the world for the sole purpose of being a parts factory for another person. That second child is a person, as much as the first, not a junkyard car being salvaged for parts.

    Of course, this is all moot because I won’t be making any babies, period, but in the hypothetical, hell no.

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  • Oh, no. No way would I have a baby to produce parts for my other child. Everybody already said it. What a horrible thing to do to a new baby. Even just having a baby to provide transfusions alone…not good. Life’s hard enough. Every baby deserves to come into the world for her own sake.

    And this does bring up the whole immortality question. We’re just not. Sometimes we have to accept that sooner than later. Even for the people we love the most.

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  • Bonnie L.
    October 23
    2:41 pm

    My short answer is Hell No!

    How long will the second child’s life make the first child’s life? Like Ms. Rimmer said, there are just times when we have to stop and do the best with what we have and make the time we do have count as much as possible.

    What if you have this child and it does have the match that is needed? What is the guarantee that child #1 will live any longer than before? Cancer is a fickle thing and there are no sureties. Now you have lost your first child and your second child will have to deal with the fact that his/her entire existence really had no meaning because the first child died anyways. Well, not that you’d make him/her feel that way, but I’m sure that will be something that they have to deal with.

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  • Anon76
    October 23
    5:31 pm

    Angela,

    It was that book and movie that sparked the dilemma question.

    I’m off to buy the book now, though I’m sure it will be of the type to hit all my hot buttons. And make me cry.

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  • willaful
    October 23
    6:26 pm

    That book was actually inspired by a real case in which, IIRC, the husband actually had a vasectomy reversed so they could have another child. Their daughter had leukemia. At the time, I thought it was horribly unethical. When my best friend was diagnosed with leukemia sometime after that, it gave me a completely different perspective. And now I’m a mother, I have another perspective again. Yes, I would do it in a heartbeat if I could (though I probably can’t.) Not JUST to save my child or replace that child. It’s hard to explain but I know I would love another child if I had one. I’ve chosen not to have another for various excellent reasons, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want another. Something like that would tip the scales.

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  • Ghetto Diva said: Honestly, if it were just blood transfusions, and the new baby, would be safe, then yes I would. But since your talking about organs, and the possibility of the new baby dying because of the donation of organs, I couldn’t do it.

    I have to agree with Ghetto Diva. I have four children who mean the absolute world to me. But if I brought another child into the world I have to think about it’s life and quality of life, too.

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  • No. My son had a fever induced seizure. They had to take blood and run all sorts of other tests. He ended up being ok, but as I was driving away from the children’s hospital I could only think of the parents who didn’t have that luxury. The people who will never be able to drive their children home again. I wouldn’t do that intentionally to another child.

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  • willaful
    October 23
    6:56 pm

    To add onto my answer… I don’t think any parent who deeply loves their child could ever have another *solely* for the purpose of saving that first child. When you know that feeling of love and utter commitment, you would also know that the second child would be your child, and your other child’s sibling and as much a part of your family as the first. That’s why I would do it.

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  • I would do it. Until the new baby was there, my absolute priority is the children I already have. I’m pretty sure it would not be permitted to harvest organs from the new baby which would guarantee its death. Surely using a healthy child to give a sick child a heart counts as murder and would not be allowed. I’m assuming they’re taking about bone marrow transplants, or maybe a kidney.

    I realize these procedures are also extreme. But if I was told this was the only way to save one of my children, I’d do it. I can guarantee you I’d also love the new child, so that would not be an issue.

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  • katieM
    October 23
    9:16 pm

    I realize these procedures are also extreme. But if I was told this was the only way to save one of my children, I’d do it. I can guarantee you I’d also love the new child, so that would not be an issue.

    In this day and age, cloning of organs is a possibility. In fact I read a story of an experimental procedure where a rodent’s heart was “cleaned’ of its original cells so that only the structure of the heart remained. Cells from another rodent were introduced and they repopulated the structure and started beating. If scientists and researchers can do that, then there seems to be no reason to harvest organs from one child to save another.

    Donated organs are still needed today, but the key word there is donated. A child can’t rationally make that determination to donate parts of its body to another, and he or she shouldn’t have to. I think the whole concept of forcing one child to sacrifice itself to save the life another is ghoulish and incredibly selfish on the part of the parents.

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  • Chantal
    October 23
    10:34 pm

    Fuck no!
    I have children to love, raise and support them. Not to turn them into science experiments! That’s exactly what it would be, as there is no guarantee that the next baby will be an exact match.

    The moment my babies are conceived they become *my baby*. I will not put one child in front of a bullet to save the other. No way.

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  • Wouldn’t they have to wait until the new baby was of age to consent anyway? Can a parent force a child to give marrow or blood if they’re a match by giving consent for them? That’s disgusting if they can. And if they’d have to wait…if the other kid’s so sick, how would they survive 18 years while they waited for the new baby to become old enough?

    I just find it all so morbid. “I’d love it once it was here” doesn’t make much of a difference when that second child realizes the only reason it was born was to be a parts factory for their sibling. Ouch. Imagine knowing your existence was solely intended to give bits of yourself to someone else? How dehumanizing is that?

    Not to mention being willing to put one child in mortal danger (those are serious operations with sometimes deadly outcomes, in order to save the life of another child in mortal danger. And the fact that transplants sometimes don’t work at all. What are you gambling 2 lives on there? Maybe 1000-1 odds on a good day?

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  • willaful
    October 24
    3:04 am

    Just wondering if the people who are so vehemently opposed to the medical aspects would feel the same if they already had another child who was a match?

    Having experienced my friend’s leukemia — her life was saved by (freely given) bone marrow from her sister, btw — I know that random ethical dilemmas feel much different when you are actually in such a situation. It is very easy to sneer when you aren’t faced with such a choice.

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  • Willaful: These are human beings we are talking about. Not the vegetable garden in the backyard. Your child could die from the surgeries, or from complications after the surgeries, or complications from having organs removed later down the road. Also, I think CHILD is the important factor here. Seriously, someone would risk their child? It would be heartbreaking enough to lose one, but both?

    My ten year old is dying and I serve up my five year for organs or blood marrow or vice versa. There’s something wrong with that theory on so many levels.

    So, everything Fae said.

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  • Willaful, I am going to assume your friend’s sister was an adult at the time? You can tell me if I’m right or not. I do know this: my biological father died of leukemia. The only match for bone marrow was with one of the grandchildren, and my father refused to take that donation because he was a small boy. If you want to say that was wrong, go ahead, but my father was an adult, with adult comprehension of the procedure and adult understanding of the possible dangers facing someone giving the bone marrow. I just don’t think this is the same as making the choice for a child. And whether those who agree are, in the end, ethically right or wrong, I do not feel anyone here has sneered about the question.

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  • Seven weeks ago I gave birth to our first baby, a miracle really considering the state of my craptastic ovaries. Unfortunately, our sweet little munchkin was born with an undiagnosed and completely unexpected major heart defect. She had her first major heart surgery at 15 days and will undergo open heart surgery in the spring to further repair her defects. Over the next ten years or so, she will require further surgeries to repair valves and perhaps even install a pacemaker.

    If our cardiologist told us Nyx needed a heart transplant would we consider using IVF to genetically engineer a donor match? Um, hell no. I love my daughter more than anything in this world but I’m not about to conceive a second child for the sole purpose of providing my first born with blood products and organs. That is beyond preposterous and disgusting.

    Spending weeks in NICUs and CVICUs gives a parent a totally different perspective on life. What Nyx has already endured in terms of horrific tests and treatments and invasive surgeries I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Doing it purposely to a second child is beyond unthinkable. A mother is supposed to protect her baby, not gestate for the sole purpose of serving it up to surgeons to slice and dice for the benefit of his or her sibling.

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  • Willaful, no one is sneering. I’m mostly nauseous at the idea of such a situation occurring.

    As to your question…the answer would still be no. If an existing child was a match for the other, I *might* agree to blood donation, but only if the donating child was old enough to understand what they were agreeing to. So, imo, at least a teenager. And even then it would be their choice, I wouldn’t force them or try to manipulate them into it. Organ donation? No, period, if they’re under age 18. Over 18 I’d certainly hope they’d offer to help their sibling, but organ donation is a very personal choice and I’d respect their decision whatever they chose.

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  • I was born with a birth defect that was fairly serious but not life threatening. Still, I underwent many surgeries and medical care. I will carry my physical scars for life, up front and center on my face for all to see.

    I used to beg for a brother or a sister. My dad always said “no”, however. He said he had the means to take care of one child with special needs but not two. I think he was scared a second child would have similar defects that I had, so both for that child’s sake and my sake, he wouldn’t do it. I still miss having a sibling, but perhaps I’m starting to understand his decision.

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  • Seeley deBorn
    October 24
    3:28 pm

    I wonder if stem cells would be able to solve this one? Maybe instead of genetically engineering humans for medical purposes (which is, in effect, what’s being suggested), we should work on a smaller scale.

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  • willaful
    October 24
    5:44 pm

    I have to confess, I basically ignored the “organ transplant” part of the question, because I think it’s nonsense. It wouldn’t be legal, let alone moral. So with that in mind it is a much more horrific proposition, I agree.

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  • willaful
    October 24
    5:45 pm

    Seeley, genetic engineering was not part of the question at all. That would be an entirely different question.

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  • Chantal
    October 24
    8:25 pm

    Even if you ignored that part of the question do you really think that constant blood transfusions on another child is any better, Willaful?

    There is really no way to justify a yes to any part of the question.

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  • eggs
    October 25
    3:04 am

    Surgeons are not legally allowed to take organ donations from a child who is too young to understand the concept of consent and what they are consenting to, and their capacity to do that is determined by a court, not the parents.

    So as a parent, you can conceive a second child in the *hope* they will grow up to be the kind of person who would donate an organ to a sibling, but that’s all you get: hope. It will be up to the grown second child, the drs and the courts to make the final decision on living organ donation. If my child had a fatal illness, would I have a second child in the *hope* this would happen? Yes, I would – but only if I could also have a 3rd and 4th, so that the hope is there, but the expectation that any one child MUST donate would be gone.

    As for the incredibly painful, but non-fatal, process of bone marrow and blood donations? Yes, I would also have extra siblings for my child in the hope that they would be compatible donors. Seeing my kids in pain is horrible, but I’d rather see two suffer pain that will pass, than one dead for ever.

    People have kids for all kinds of dumb reasons. Common ones include: so their boyfriend won’t leave them, because they’re bored, because they got pissed and forgot to take the pill, because they don’t want to work, because they want to trap a husband, etc. I am not sure why it is contemptible to have a child in the hope they will one day be able to save the life of another, when all of the other reasons are accepted as perfectly legitimate.

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  • Janean
    October 25
    3:20 am

    I think it is always really easy to say what you will and won’t do when you haven’t actually been faced with the true horror of a particular situation.

    The only kind of organ transplant you’d be able to take from one child and give to the other would be a kidney, and I really don’t think the scenario in the book was at all realistic. I can’t imagine any doctor agreeing to take a kidney from a minor whether it’s legal or not. Also in that book the parents chose an embryo that was genetically tailored to match the older sister, which as far as I know is not a realistic scenario at the moment either.

    As for having another kid in the hopes that he or she would be able to provide blood transfusions or bone marrow to save the life of the first one – yes I would do this. I wouldn’t have them taking bone marrow from him or her until the child was old enough to understand what was happening and why, but I see nothing wrong with having another child to love that in addition to being another source of love and joy could also save the life of your first.

    Besides, they would most likely use stem cells from the new child’s cord blood before even thinking of trying anything else which doesn’t affect the baby in any way.

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  • I agree the most with Eggs.

    I can’t help but believe that if I was stood next to my dying child’s bed, and there was even a glimmer of hope for her survival, I would do whatever it took to keep her alive, including having another baby who may provide genetic material for her.

    I’m not sure there would be a moment of doubt in my mind about the decision. Making an ethically correct decison wouldn’t even enter into the equation for me. It really would be all about the child I already have.

    Now, it may be that once the baby was born, then I may change my mind, but if I had to make that choice whilst watching my child fight to survive, I would try to have another baby with the sole intention of trying to save the child I already have in a heartbeat.

    If any of you have a child at the moment, I bet if you looked at them and imagined this scenario,(God forbid) your answer may well change.

    Janean is right, it is easier to make the ‘correct’ ethical choice when one isn’t actually faced with the decision.

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  • Anon
    October 26
    6:44 pm

    I was 40 when my son was diagnosed with leukemia. He did not and still doesn’t have a good donor match for a BMT. He is an only child.

    I did seriously consider having another child when my son was first diagnosed. Even after learning that the chance of having a perfect match was pretty slim, I still would have gone ahead and had another baby, if I’d felt it was necessary to try to save my son’s life.

    I would have, of course, loved and adored a new baby, because it isn’t in me to do otherwise. And yes, I probably would have felt some guilt to have the primary reason for having another baby be that I needed a genetic match for my son. Problem is, I love my son too damned much not to do and try *anything* in the world to save him.

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  • Ghetto Diva
    October 27
    1:34 pm

    Spending weeks in NICUs and CVICUs gives a parent a totally different perspective on life. What Nyx has already endured in terms of horrific tests and treatments and invasive surgeries I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Doing it purposely to a second child is beyond unthinkable. A mother is supposed to protect her baby, not gestate for the sole purpose of serving it up to surgeons to slice and dice for the benefit of his or her sibling.

    Lolita I’ll say a prayer for your baby. May God bless her.

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  • Seeley deBorn
    October 29
    1:26 am

    @willaful

    Two people combining their genetic information for a specific purpose is genetic engineering. The parents would be genetically engineering one child (with the desired biological and genetic properties) in order to help the other one. Just because genes aren’t being spliced in a lab doesn’t mean it’s not genetic engineering. Any kind of breeding for specific genetic or phenotypic properties or traits is genetic engineering.

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  • willaful
    October 29
    5:06 am

    Seeley – I have looked at numerous sites about genetic engineering and have yet to find one that agrees with you. Can you cite a source?

    It would certainly become an even more more loaded question to ask, “would you have a child with your ex for this purpose?”

    Anon, I am so very sorry about your situation. I know a little about how that feels, though of course a close friend is not the same as ones child.

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  • Anon
    October 30
    5:26 pm

    Thank you, willaful. After six years of treatment, he’s still not in remission, but he’s hanging in there, thanks to clinical trials of targeted gene therapies. He’s been lucky in that regard. As lucky as you can get with cancer.
    I hope your friend is doing all right, too.
    And I understand just what you mean by saying you chose not to have another child but that doesn’t mean you don’t want one. I felt exactly the same way.

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  • I couldn’t do it. I have many thoughts about the importance of why and how a child is brought into the world. (100% wanted and never for personal gain)

    To have another child specifically for that purpose is to relegate the second child to second-class citizenship (mentally) for the rest of his or her life.

    Yes, you do everything to save your child EXCEPT ruin the life of your other child.

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