Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult


Anna Fitzgerald's older sister, Kate, suffers from a disease known as acute promyelocytic leukemia, which is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. According to Anna's parents, the whole reason behind her birth in the first place was so that the blood from her umbilical cord could be used in treatments to help save her sister Kate. The treatment is initially successful; however, Kate relapses, and since then, Anna is used as a donor for all other bodily substances that are needed to help save Kate's life; Anna is the only match. Anna is usually willing to donate whatever Kate needs, but one day she is told that she needs to donate one of her kidneys in order to keep Kate alive. The surgery is not completely guaranteed to work. Anna gets a lawyer named Campbell Alexander involved so that he can help her make her own decisions about the medical treatment and whether or not to go through with donating the kidney. Anna's mother, Sara, is an ex-lawyer; therefore, she decides to represent both herself and her husband in the lawsuit regarding Anna's kidney. Throughout the novel, Sara tries to convince Anna to get rid of the lawsuit, but she refuses. Anna and her mother are constantly fighting, so Anna moves out of the house to go live with her father named Brian in the fire station where he works. Anna and Kate's brother, Jesse, is ignored due to Kate's illness, so he spends the majority of his time getting into trouble with fire and drugs. He is a juvenile delinquent; however, he goes on to graduate from a police academy at the end of the novel. During the trial, it is revealed that Kate asked Anna to sue because Kate did not want Anna to transplant her kidney on her behalf and also because she thinks that she is going to die soon anyway. At the end of the trial, the judge rules in Anna's favor and gives Campbell, her lawyer, medical power. As Campbell is driving Anna home after the trail, a truck smashes into their car. Anna's father comes to her rescue, but she has suffered an injury to the head and is unconscious. Campbell has only suffered a slight injury to his arm. When they all arrive at the hospital, the doctor declares Anna brain-dead and asks them if they would consider organ donation. Campbell walks into the room and boldly states that there is a girl on the upstairs floor of the hospital that desperately needs Anna's kidney. Meanwhile, Kate is prepped for surgery and eventually Anna's kidney is successfully transplanted. Kate survives the transplant surgery but goes into remission. The remainder of Anna's useable organs are removed so that they can be used for future transplants. Kate stays in remission for about six years. Not only did Anna sacrifice her kidney for her sister, but also she essentially dies so that her sister can live.

Discussion questions:

1). If you were in Anna's situation and knew that the only reason your parents had you was to try to save their other sick child, would you be willing to help in any way possible? Why or why not? What if you did not know that this was your parent's plan and it was merely a matter of helping your sibling, would you help?

2). Do you think Kate really meant what she said in the courtroom when she said she did not want Anna to give up her kidney on her behalf, or do you think she was merely trying to look "good" in front of the judge and her family?

3). When people obtain drivers' licenses, they get to decide if they want to be an organ donor or not. Do you believe that this should be a choice or do you think it should be mandatory for people to register as organ donors? What is your stance on this issue, and do you believe in transplants?

14 comments:

Kelsey M. 11/12 said...

In response to question 3: I feel that it should be a person's choice whether or not to be an organ donor. It is their body and they should be able to decide what they want to do with it when they are dead. But I do feel that everyone should be an organ donor because you can save many people's lives by donating your organs. You don't need your organs when you are dead, so why not give them to someone who needs them to survive or live a better life. A common misconception is that doctors will not work as hard to save you if they know that you are an organ donor, but this is very untrue.

Megan D. 11-12 said...

I agree with Kelsey. While I do not think that the government has the right to declare that everyone has to be an organ donor, I think that everyone should chose to be one in order to save lives. In response to question 2, I think Kate was speaking from her heart. No one can court death for as long as she did without coming to accept her own mortality. She knew that without the kidney she was going to die but she still asked Anna to stop living solely for her. She did not want for her sister to not be able to live her life. She did not want her sister to end up like her, unable to be free.

Kelsey M. 13-14 said...

#3 I think that everyone should be free to choose wheither or not they want to donate their organs although I think everyone should. I think you can save 6-8 people with your living organs and if your dead then you obviously don't need them anymore so why not some of the 100,00 people in the US waiting for a donation?

Erika B 13-14 said...

In response to question one, if I were in Anna's situation, I believe I would help my sick sibling, but only to a certain extent. This may just be me, but I find it completely selfish that a set of parents would have a baby solely to save their first born sick child. They basically seem as if they take Anna for granted for most, if not all, of her life, which is not fair. I would never be able to put up with that. I believe, as a baby or young child, I would be willing to help in any way possible to save my sibling, but that is mostly because I would be young and naive about what's going on. As heartless as this may sound, I would not go through surgery after surgery to help a child that my parents clearly loved much more than me.

Laura B. 13-14 said...

3) i Think that everyone should have the choice on wether or not they should have their organs donated to science wether it be for transplants or medical research. However, I don't understand why someone would want to keep their organs because once their dead its not like they will be using them anyways. On the issue of transplants, yes I do believe people should have transplants, but only in life threatening situations.I believe that if we have the technology to save someone's life, the situation should be taken advantage of. Who knows, maybe the next person's life we save will be the next Albert Einstein or Ronald Regan.

Kristen R. 11-12 said...

Kelsey: I completely agree that while people have the right to choose whether or not they want to be organ donors when they die, people should want to choose to be organ donors. What can you do with your organs once you are dead? People might argue that their organ might go to an alcoholic or someone who they feel is not deserving of an organ transplant; however, if you could save someones life, a lot of people would not even think twice. Kelsey, I think you brought up a good point with the misconception that you stated, and I agree that doctors would work just as hard to save those people who are donors.

Kristen R. 11-12 said...

Erika: I completely agree with you that it is selfish for a set of parents to have a child merely to try to save their first born sick child. While most parents would go to great lengths to save their children if they should get sick, it is simply not fair to the other child who was born for the sole purpose of helping his/her sick sibling. I also agree with you in that I would also try to help my sick sibling, but if I were young I do think that it would be merely because I was young and naive like you said. Also, I understand where you are coming from when you say that you would not go through multiple surgeries. I don't think that means you love the sibling any less I just think it's a matter of pure strenth at that point.

Bojana D 11.12 said...

As Erika said, if my parents just had me to save my sister's life, I would feel so unloved and taken advantage of. Every child, teenager, young adult should have parents that love him or her. I agree with Erika that it is selfish on the parents' behalf to have a child to save the first-born's life. I don't see how they didn't think of Anna as a person instead of a thing that they could simply control.

And again agreeing with Erika, I would also help to a certain extent. I would help until I knew my life would be in danger. I would want my sister to live, but then again, I would want to live my own life as well.

Kara K. 5/6 said...

1)I would still help, even if I knew that was the only reason why I was born. I feel like since I would already be on earth that I should help out as much as possible, because I cannot be unborn. If I did not know it was my parent's plan, then I would help my sibling without a doubt. They are family, and family is the closest thing to a person. I would feel horible if I did not help my sibling and then they dyed. It would be on my shoulders for the rest of my life that I had a chance to save my sibling.

3) I feel like it should be a choice; however, I feel like everyone should be an prgan donor. It does not effect you when you die to have an organ taken out of you. When you die anything you can give to someone in need is a great help. If everyone put not to be an organ donor, then many people would be dying at younge ages due to illnesses.

LibbyS5/6 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LibbyS5/6 said...

In response to question one, I would be willing to help my sibling, because family is irreplacable, but i would still feel as though my life was somewhat obsolete - like I was merely a prop used to save my sibling. I would be more willing to help if i didn't know this was my parents plan, because then I would be completely ignorant to the fact that my parents only decided to have a second child in order to save the first.

Kristen T. 11-12 said...

In response to question 3, I do believe in transplants, but I think that everyone should have a choice in whether or not they wish to be an organ doner. Transplants are very important, for without them, many people would not be able to survive. Some people, however, may not feel comfortable with donating parts of their body after death. It would obviously be very helpful and convenient if everyone was an organ doner, but I still think that everyone should be given the choice.

Dana G. 13-14 said...

1). If you were in Anna's situation and knew that the only reason your parents had you was to try to save their other sick child, would you be willing to help in any way possible? Why or why not? What if you did not know that this was your parent's plan and it was merely a matter of helping your sibling, would you help?

I believe I would be willing to help my sibling regardless. I could not stand to see a family member sick, and would try to do everything possible to try to help them.

Betsy C 1314 said...

I believe that being an organ donor is an important decision to make. I really dont understand why somebody would choose not to be, since you cannot use the organs after you die. I think it is a wise decision to make, since in this case in particular, a life can be saved. Its really the opportunity to save somebody without giving hardly anything up.