Saviour siblings – the Gregorys

Jason and Lesley Gregory has baby Michael to save their daughter Harriet. Are saviour siblings ethical? 
Harriet was born with a rare brain condition which means she has no sucking mechanism and a build up of white matter on her brain which seems to have no obvious cause. They decided to have a baby in order to harvest the umbilical stem cells to try to save Harriet. Here is their story.

“After Michael was born we had a painful week’s wait to see if stem cells could be harvested from his umbilical cord. We’d only got pregnant to save Harriet, after all. Thankfully his cord provided twice the number of cells necessary for transplant. Next we had to find a doctor willing to inject them. Harriet’s doctors have refused – her condition is undiagnosed so there’s no evidence it would be effective. We’re looking at options abroad.”

Pro-life groups criticise the creation of “saviour siblings”, saying a child should be born for its own worth. But we love Michael as much as we do our other children. When he’s older we’ll tell him what his purpose was, that he’s extra-special for the gift he gave. If something happened to Harriet, hopefully Michael’s arrival would cushion the blow. Until then we’ll do everything I our power to save her. Wouldn’t any parent do the same?” Would they?

Stem cells have a unique property that retain the ability to divide throughout their lifetime, so can replace any cells damaged or dead. Embryonic stem cells are particularly exciting as they are ‘pluripotent’, they can potentially replace any cell in the body. They might even grow new organs. However in a global market worth $4.5 billion the ethical problem is this: stem cell therapy is as yet unproven. Vulnerable families are open to financial exploitation on the back of hopes of success. Desperation is a powerful driver. Is it moral to peddle false dreams?

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