My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult Term Paper

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¶ … Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult to critically analyze ethical issues in the medical profession. The writer explores several of the book's more sensitive topics and details the ethical dilemma that they surround. There were five sources used to complete this paper.

For the past few decades, the medical community has made advances that society never before dreamed possible. People are living longer than ever before, and their quality of life has reached an all time high even up into the golden years. There is currently much controversy surrounding the idea and practice of stem cell research and the cloning of cells. The ethics of this practice have been hotly debated since its inception with members of society lining up either for or against the issue. With the advances in medical science ethical questions are coming into play as well.

One well-known work of fiction delves into the ethical dilemmas that the medical community in real life is just beginning to face. In My Sister's Keeper, by Jodi Picoult one sister is conceived through genetic selection to act as a spare part human model for her older sister who has cancer.

For this young girl's entire life she has provided bone marrow, platelets and other necessary interventions whenever her sister would become ill again. At the opening of the book however, Anna (the younger sister who is being used for her parts) hires an attorney and fights to win the right to refuse to give up any more of her body or time in the quest to save her sister.

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This time Kate, (the sister with cancer) needs a kidney and their parents want to force Anna to give up a kidney. Anna is 13 years old and retains an attorney for the purpose of refusing to do so. The book is well written and addresses many of the personal and ethical issues that a family would face given the same situation. In the end Anna wins, the family finds out it's not about Anna being selfish, but about her fulfilling Kate's wish to stop fighting the illness and die.

TOPIC: Term Paper on My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult Assignment

Anna gets in a car accident on the way back from winning her court case and she is brain dead, so her parents end up using her kidney to save Kate anyway and it does turn out to be the final phase of the illness for Kate who goes on to live a full and productive life.

There are many ethical questions and issues that are raised throughout the book, which closely resemble some of the things that are currently being experienced in today's medical community.


The demographics of the family involved are average when compared to many of today's American families. There is a mother who at one time was a licensed and practicing attorney, however, when her children were born she made the decision to stay home and raise them. When the issue of Anna refusing to provide a kidney to Kate comes up, she decides to dust off her license and represent herself in the suit to emancipate Anna's medical decision making ability.

The father is a fireman. It is interesting because Jake, the oldest child and the only boy is not only experimenting with drugs he is also running around setting fires that his dad has to put out.

The parents do not figure out until the last part of the story that it is their son who is doing the fire setting in some sort of cry for attention. All of his life it seems that Kate has received the most attention because she is the one who has the life threatening illness, while Anna also receives her fair share of attention because she provides the medical treatments that her older sister needs.

The older brother is all but completely ignored and many believe that is delinquent adventures are nothing more than a young boy crying out to be noticed in a family where he has grown up as the invisible entity.

Kate is the middle child and the one with the illness. She is a bit spunky and sassy and sarcastic as many teenagers her age are, yet she has a wiseness about her beyond her years, probably due to all she has endured medically.

Anna is the same. She is far beyond her years in many areas of thinking and it is probably due to the fact that she was born for the sole purpose of saving her sister and her entire life has been spent remaining healthy so that whenever Kate needed something Anna could provide it to her. She grew up providing blood, platelets and anything else Kate needed until the subject of a kidney transplant arrived and it was the first time she refused. She is mature in many areas but there are still areas in which she is a child. One example of this is the fact that she saved all she could to pay the attorney without having a clue that her meager offerings would be nothing compared to his hourly rate. Luckily for Anna he agrees to take the case for free, or at least the meager amount she has promised him.


Today, perhaps more than ever before, professionals in the medical community face ethics questions and decisions. The stem cell research issues and all that surround them have brought forth the truth in what society and individuals are willing or not willing to do for the sake of life.

Ethical issues that surround today's medical decisions are unlike any that have been faced in the past. Today, machinery and medications are able to maintain life support almost indefinitely. In addition there is a lot going on in the world of research that will soon allow body parts to be grown. There are worldwide debates as to the ethics of such treatment, but when one takes the novel My Sister's Keeper, holds it against today's abilities and practices it is not hard to see that such questions are facing those who work in the medical field today (Thompson, 2006).

In some cases, traditional medical ethics issues and bioethics issues overlap. For example, the need for testing gene therapy products in humans prior to approval adds a new dimension to safeguarding the safety of human research subjects (Thompson, 2006)."

For one to understand the ethical issues in My Sister's Keeper one must have an understanding of the disorder and the usual treatments for that disorder that is illustrated in the book.


Kate, the subject of the needed medical treatments suffers from leukemia. It is a rare form of leukemia and one that many young adults die from in short order. While the disease is indeed life threatening, great advances and stride have been made recently so that the cure rate for childhood leukemia has gotten much higher than it has been in the past.

Leukemia can be a tricky disorder as its beginning symptoms can be vague and non-alarming. The child might start out with flu like symptoms that can include a sore throat, a fever and an upset stomach. In addition the child may begin to display bruises for which no explanation can be found. All of the symptoms together add up to something to call the doctor about, but one at a time or having just a few of them often go unnoticed or garner a "wait and see" attitude by parents and professionals alike.

In addition to the more obvious symptoms of leukemia other symptoms include:

Signs and Symptoms (


Malaise (vague feeling of bodily discomfort)

Abnormal bleeding

Excessive bruising


Reduced exercise tolerance

Weight loss

Bone or joint pain

Infection and fever

Abdominal pain or "fullness"

Enlarged spleen, lymph nodes, and liver (Thompson, 2006). "

Other manifestations of the disorder include enlarged spleen and enlarged liver as those organs are directly impacted by the leukemia.

Leukemia is a blood cancer that creates overgrowth in the bone marrow. The process of cancer destroys and crowds out the other cells and eventually begins to destroy organs throughout the body as well.

Normal blood contains 3 major groups of cells: white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets. All 3 types of blood cells develop from one immature cell type, called blood/marrow stem cells, in a process called hematopoiesis (Leukemia ("

The stem cells continue to divide and develop and goes through many stages in the bone marrow.

Leukemia is more common in white people than in people of color. Anna and Kate's family is white.

For decades ago the survival rate for all Leukemia's was 14%, but with the current medical advances the overall cure rate is now 50%. However, that includes all leukemia's, individual types have varying survival rates.

Risk factors for the disorder include smoking, exposure to certain chemicals, certain medical syndromes and genetic predisposition to the development of the disease.

Diagnosis of the disorder includes blood count work, physical examination and if those point to possible… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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