August 28, 2009

My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult

So I didn't just read non-fiction on my holiday - I also indulged in some fluff. I've never read anything by Jodi Picoult before, though I had definitely seen her books at the bookstore. The topic of this one intrigued me (I love anything to do with medical ethics!). A child develops leukemia, so the parents use genetic engineering to give birth to another child who is a perfect genetic match and can be an organ donor. What starts out as a donation of cord blood becomes blood transfusions; a bone marrow transplant; and at the point where the story begins, she is being "asked" to donate a kidney to her sister.

I guess on a superficial level, there are some ethical issues - parents divided between what is best for one child vs. the other vs. the family as a whole - but the whole situation seemed implausible the whole time. What do you mean, they never thought to ask the second child what she felt? The story revolves around a lawsuit initiated by the younger child seeking medical emancipation, and as I said before, it was a little far-fetched. And I don't really see the ethical debate - in the case of an organ donation, it must be voluntary, and the best interests of the donor have to come ahead of the recipient. Or to put it more coarsely, if the donation goes ahead, the donor will likely face life-long restrictions to her health and activity level, and the recipient will probably die soon anyways due to the underlying condition. So since I didn't buy into the ethical debate, the book seemed rather shallow, and built on a flimsy foundation.

But having said that, it was a light, fluffy, holiday read that kept me reading until the end. But it too didn't make it back to Canada - I left it with a Tanzanian high school student who likes to read novels. I don't see it presenting any challenges to someone for whom English is her third language!

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