Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Book Review: “My sister’s Keeper” By Jodi Picoult.

Our local book club picked this book to be “book-of-the-month”. It’s a provoking book, and I think Mrs. Piccoult meant it to be. I have to say, I DID NOT LIKE IT. I emphasized that because in all the reviews I read I found nothing but flattery and praise for Mrs. Picoult’s “beautiful, heartbreaking, controversial, and honest book.” Please, does anyone else NOT like this book? “Known for writing novels with provocative themes centered on family conflict and difficult moral choices, Jodi Picoult presents the story of a child whose sole reason for existence is to assure a genetic match for her terminally ill sibling.” You’d think with such “provocative themes” more people would disagree with her books! In talking about morals and ethics, none of the reviews seem to address what IS right and wrong. Mrs. Piccoult doesn’t seem to address it clearly herself. I think she does it fairly subtly. I feel like the whole book was meant to be propaganda.

In short, the story line of “My Sister’s Keeper” is this:
“Conceived in vitro, 13-year-old Anna Fitzgerald has decided to sue her parents to stop them from using her as "spare parts" for her older sister, Kate, who suffers from leukemia. After years of having her bone marrow and blood used to keep Kate alive, Anna now refuses to donate a kidney and strives for her own personal freedom. She hires lawyer Campbell Alexander to represent her, even as her own mother, a former civil defense attorney, fights her in court.”

These are the main issues in the book:
• A “Designer Baby”. Basically cloning. Is it possible? Is it legal? Biblical?
• A minor donating blood, bone marrow, and maybe even a kidney. Possible? Legal?
Parental rights. Anna has to sue to get her parents to stop taking her body parts? Possible?

Probably the biggest issue I feel Mrs. Piccoult is arguing against is Parental Rights. In her story she portrays it so that the reader feels that the parents should have absolutely no right to make decisions in their daughter’s life, because in the story they are, in a way, abusing her. I think what a lot of people would take away from this is that parents have too much control over their children’s lives. I feel that’s what Mrs. Piccoult wants people to understand from this book.

I am totally for parental rights. God put parents in charge of their children’s welfare. The idea of no parental rights comes from the liberals, saying government should be in charge of all children. I received this email in response to some questions about medical laws and parental rights:

“It is against federal law for parents (or anyone) to force children to donate blood or any other form of human tissue. According to The National Health Act 61 of 2003, Section 56(2), human tissue can not be taken from a person without written consent from the PERSON. The minimum age of consent is 18; anyone under 18 cannot donate organs or tissue. I'm not entirely sure about blood donations. According to the Human Tissue Act 65 of 1983 section 18(aa), a child the age of 14 can consent to donate blood (with a reliable witness). I highly doubt that blood or tissue would ever be taken from a child without their consent, except for the gravest circumstances.

Therefore the premise of this book is rather far-fetched, and I'm not sure it can be rationalized. Federal law often requires parental consent for minors undergoing medical operations not so that the parent can control the child, but so they can protect him! If a child does not want an operation, the parents are there to back him up. If the doctor wants to force something on a child that the parents believe is harmful, again they are there to protect him.

Honestly, the entire premise actually verges on child abuse. This girl was 'created' simply to meet someone else's needs which means that her human rights are not being preserved. Is it not abusive to create a specific baby simply to take from it for the sake of someone else? In my personal opinion, the conception of this child constitutes sufficient child abuse that the parents would no longer have rights to that child.”
(As far as I can tell, “designer babies”, basically cloning, is not yet possible on such a level)

The Red Cross says that to give whole blood, platelets or plasma you must:
• be at least 17 years old (16 for whole blood in Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska with parental consent)
• weigh at least 110 lbs.
• be in good health
Those younger than age 17 are almost always legal minors (not yet of the age of majority) who cannot give consent by themselves to donate blood. (Each state determines its own age of majority, which can be different for different activities.).

And as far as kidney donations go:
“In 2004 the FDA approved the Cedars-Sinai High Dose IVIG therapy which eliminates the need for the living donor to be the same blood type (ABO compatible) or even a tissue match. Since medication to prevent rejection is so effective, donors need not be genetically similar to their recipient. Most donated kidneys come from deceased donors, with some coming from living donors.”

So it wouldn’t really be necessary to take a kidney from a minor, and it’s not legal for minors to donate blood or organs. The whole story seems to be totally unrealistic, not at all based on truth, and an attempt to sway people’s minds against Biblical principles. I wish people really would think about these issues, and not just digest the latest novel on the shelf and then base their worldview on it.


One Salient Oversight said...

The idea of no parental rights comes from the liberals, saying government should be in charge of all children.

That statement is a "red rag to a bull".

Firstly, about the book. I have no opinion - I haven't read it and I have moral issues about genetic experiments anyway.

Secondly - the broad issue of "parental rights". First of all I don't think that "Parental rights" has much basis in scripture. There is an oft quoted axiom that God wanted the family to be at the centre of society at large but I can't see that in scripture. I'll let you inform me of any bits of scripture you can quote for me on this.

On the broader issue, though, there is the question of exactly how much "non interference" the state should have upon a family. If a father is sexually abusing his children with his wife's knowledge and consent, should the state have the power to remove the children from the parents for their own well being?

Lastly, your assertion that liberals believe "government should be in charge of all children" is an overstatement. It's the "slippery slope argument" fallacy. It's like arguing that because liberals want universal health care they must be communists, which is quite wrong.


Otherwise I thought this was a good review. You have summarised the book well, have interacted with the moral conundrums in the text and offered your own opinion. I'm an English teacher so I do wish to keep encouraging you to keep writing on your blog about such things.

Frazzledsister said...

So where in the Bible do you see WHO God put in charge of raising children, if not parents? I think Eph. 6 puts it very well. I'll let you inform me exactly where it says in the Bible that God did not grant the responsibility to raise their own children to someone other than the parents.
I think it should really be the Church's job to step in when there is parental abuse.
I guess it is a also a Communistic idea that the Government ought control the children. It seems many politicians today think along those lines.

One Salient Oversight said...

I have no problem with Ephesians 6. It doesn't address my point though, which is that scripture doesn't see "the family at the centre of society".

For example, in the OT God ordered parents to teach children about God. That's an example of something "outside" the family telling the family what to do. Moreover, there is no bible verse (that I can find, maybe you can) that explicitly supports the idea that the family is its own kingdom and no one may interfere in it.

Remember I'm not a communist. Having laws that prevent children from being abused by evil parents is not the government controlling families - it's just a way of protecting those who cannot protect themselves.

Your point about the church "stepping in" when there is parental abuse is important... but it is not the church's responsibility to take a member or non member and put them through a legal process and remove their children. Whenever there is gross sin in the church, the New Testament's strictest response is to remove that person from the fellowship and shun them, treating them as an unbeliever. At no point is legal action taken.

Moreover, what of those outside the church - unbelievers - who are abusing their children? The church has no jurisdiction in judging those outside the church and only the power to expel from fellowship those within (both taught in 1 Corinthians 5.12-13).

Frazzledsister said...

I didn't say no interference- I'm for limited interference.

Your comment about family is confusing. God telling the family what to do doesn't compare to other humans outside the family, telling them what to do. My point in reviewing the book was to advocate for parental rights, and there's a disturbing movement today that is trying to take away those rights.