Saturday, 28 November, 2020

Born As Sibling Saviour

Bini Dahal

The field of science has really brought miracles to our lives. And the recent experiment of “saviour sibling” is a proof to this.  
Abhijeet Solanki, a seven-year-old boy from India, had been suffering from Thalassemia, a disorder with low haemoglobin count. As his haemoglobin count was below 11.3, he required frequent blood transfusion. Since his birth, he received blood for 80 times as per media reports.
To find a cure to this illness, the boy’s father went on a great deal of research. Finally, he was able to come across the idea of “saviour sibling”; a concept of giving birth to another child who can act as a donor for the ill sibling.
In the case of Abhijeet, he could receive a bone marrow transplant through his saviour sibling. The Solanki family had two kids (the first one being a daughter and the second a son) before the arrival of their third child, a daughter. The couple had opted for giving birth to the third child as the eldest offspring could not be match for the son.
For the third child, the doctors had used the assisted reproductive therapy, called pre-implantation genetic testing, for monogenic disorder with HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigens) matching (required for bone marrow transplant between the patient and the donor). The Solanki couple underwent three cycles of IVF (in vitro fertilisation) and 18 embryos were created. Of them, only one perfectly matched Abhijeet’s HLA. The embryo was implanted in Abhijeet’s mother, who later delivered a baby girl Kavya. 
The idea of saviour sibling is completely new and India’s first. Through this method, Abhijeet’s life has been saved and the disease is cured. Scientifically, it is a great success.
But if we look at this case through an ethical point of view, we can see it is completely wrong. The saviour sibling may suffer from psychological pain as more importance could be given to the elder sibling. After all, birth is given to a child just for the sake of providing help to her sibling. But again it is the parents’ mentality. How they act towards the saviour child will determine the side effects. Also, being a donor is not easy and it could harm the child's health as well. So this is a controversial issue.
However, the miracles of medical science have protected us from various diseases and increase our life expectancy. Thus, our bond with our family remains intact. But there are chances of misusing this technology if no proper rules and regulations are in place. In a patriarchal society like ours, we could see instances of parents spending millions of rupees on saving their son, if he is suffering from any disease.
Those who feel a son is a requirement of the family may be ready to do all they can to misuse the technology and give birth to saviour siblings (daughters) who will act as a saviour for the legacy continuer of the family. They are least concerned about what side effects may the saviour sibling face in their life once their son is free of any disease and is healthy. 
It is not always rational to take all scientific opportunities for granted. There is always a moral ground that cannot be ignored as we follow our wonderful science. If forgotten, humanity will be nowhere and everyone will be working hard on giving birth to pre-designed children for a purpose! 

How do you feel after reading this news?