Ethical Issues in “My Sister’s Keeper”
The title of the film “My Sister’s Keeper,” directed by Nick Cassavetes (2009), aptly
captures the fate of a girl brought into existence through in-vitro fertilization. Anna is genetically
matched to her older sister Kate, so that she (Anna) can donate one of her kidneys to save hr
sibling who is suffering from leukemia and renal failure. Their mother Sara is keen to have Anna
donate her kidney, although she is reluctant because she wants to enjoy her life. On her part,
Kate does not wish Anna to sacrifice her own life for her, and she gently asks her to refuse to
donate her kidney.
This film raises a number of ethical issues. The first one is the practicing of genetic
engineering, which uses embryo tissues to create new life. Conception is a natural process that
takes place through sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. Therefore, the idea of
creating an embryo through artificial means violates the natural order of things. This practice
contradicts religious teachings with regards to God’s intention of man, and the role of marriage
in procreation.
The second issue raised in the film is the extent to which individuals have control of their
own lives. The right to life is a fundamental and universal human right. Anna’s life is threatened
by the obligation imposed upon her to donate her kidney. She wishes to lea a normal life and
raise a family of her own. Forcing her to donate her kidney threatens her own survival, and
therefore violates her right to life.
Nevertheless, Stuart Mill’s utilitarian theory argues that an action is judged to be right or
wrong in light of its effect on others. Accordingly, both Anna and Kate are faced with a moral
dilemma regarding their right to life. Kate’s need of a kidney automatically endangers Anna’s
life, which means that she was morally right in refusing to have a transplant. On her part, Anna’s
reluctance to donate her kidney means that Kate will not live, thus portraying her as selfish and
uncaring toward her sister. Her attitude echoes Christian teachings about being one’s brother’s
keeper, which evidently inspired the film’s title. Thus, Anna fails the moral test of being her
sister’s keeper. Ironically, it is Kate who becomes her sister’s keeper by giving up the desire to
live to save Anna from the obligation to donate her kidney.


Cassavetes, N. (Nov 2009). My Sister’s Keeper: Film. U.S.A: Warner Bros Pictures.

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