My Sister’s Keeper

Jasmine Denton
My Sister’s Keeper

By: Jodi Picoult

When you think of the expression, “My sister’s keeper” a general thought of an older sibling providing nurturing care to a younger sibling automatically comes into mind. A teenager that soothes their upset pre-teen sibling because the heart throb crush of the opposite sex does not share the same feelings, or the idea of an older sibling teaching the younger one the ways of life and proving encouraging words to influence good behavior in school, basically the general concept behind being a normal sibling. In the case of Anna and Kate Fitzgerald however this concept is out of the ordinary because Anna was born with the sole purpose of keeping her older sister Kate alive, “her sister’s keeper”. The book My Sister’s Keeper is a captivating novel that discusses moral conflict, family values, genetic makeup, designer babies, cancer and cancer treatment. This book by author Jodi Picoult is among the top best sellers because it discusses controversial topics such as stem cell research and designer babies in relation to a medical situation that will grab the reader and leave them searching through scholarly journals for more information on the science behind this book. Jodi Picoult did a great job with interesting the everyday reader while also involving science, medicine, and ethics. My Sister’s Keeper was used to raise the question of whether or not it is morally acceptable to create a life and use it to save another life, and also when if ever is it ok to subject someone to medical procedures against their will.

About the authorj
Jodi Lynn Picoult was born May 19, 1966 in Long island. She is an American author who has written numerous books featured on the New York Time’s, Best Sellers list. Jodi Picoult was interested in writing at a young age. When she was old enough to read and write she authored her first work known as “The lobster which Misunderstood”. (Journal) Jodi took her love for writing to college. Jodi attended Princeton where she majored in creative writing (picoult). While attending college she published work in Seventeen Magazine, and throughout college worked for a few companies as a writer to pay the bills (picoult). After College, Jodi began a career as a writer for Wall Street, a copywriter for an ad agency, and also as a middle school teacher. She then took her education to the next level and attended grad school to get a master’s degree in education at Harvard University (picoult). Jodi continued to write, and was later married to Tim Van Leer and started a family. A short time after she was married, Jodi published her first novel titled The Songs of a Humpback Whale in 1992, followed by several other novels that charted the top of the best sellers list. In later years Jodi Picoult was given several awards such as, The New England Bookseller Award for Fiction, the Book Browse Diamond Award for novel of the year, and even a lifetime achievement award (picoult). She has also been recognized for countless achievements for several other novels she has published. The work Jodi Picoult has done is inspiring to her fan base because it deals with so many interesting topics, and because of her skillful writing style. Jodi Picoult is an author, wife, mother, and a member of numerous charities (picoult). Jodi Picoult’s Novel My sister’s Keeper had so much success after it was published that it was made into a major motion film. My Sister’s Keeper the movie was released in 2009 (wikipedia). The film stared Cameron Diaz, Abigail Breslin, and Joan Cusack. When the movie was released there were some major changes in the plot, but it was still a hit in the box office (wikipedia).


The story of My Sister’ Keepermy-sisters-keeper-lg
The Book is structured around the Fitzgerald Family. The members are parents, Sara and Brian. The kids are Jesse, Kate, and Anna. The book starts out with background information about the family and the issues they are all dealing with. Brian and Sara have a son named Jesse who is healthy as a young child. When he is a few years old he gets a new little sister named Kate. Unlike Jesse, Kate is not so lucky when it comes to health. When she is around the age of two she begins to get sick often, and Kate develops mysterious bruises. The parents take her to the doctor to get some test done. Sara and Brian find out that Kate has developed a serious illness, and is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. The cancer is Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia, APL for short (organization). APL is a rare form of leukemia, and it affects an estimated 1 in every 250,000 people (genetics home reference, the guide to understanding genetic conditions). APL is a cancer of the blood forming system due to a translocation of cells in the body. APL is diagnosed by blood testing. Symptoms of this cancer include abnormal bruising and bleeding, such as blood in the urine and nose bleeds (genetics home reference, the guide to understanding genetic conditions). The symptoms related to APL are exactly the symptoms Kate experienced in the novel. After Kate was diagnosed with APL the plan of treatment was discussed.
The first plan was to have the family tested to determine if there was a donor match to assist in the treatment of Kate. There were no matches, so chemotherapy radiation, and several other medications were the next plan of action. Over the course of a few years the treatments worked, but due to the rarity of this cancer a repeat in treatment proved to be ineffective. The family seemed to be running out of options, and then a doctor that specializes in genetics gave them a new option. The doctor basically told them that even though none of the current family members were matches for Kate, there could still be a chance that another member can be. The doctor told the family that the increase in genetic studies has provided information on designing babies. The family could consult with a geneticist and embryologist to produce a perfect donor match for their sick daughter Kate. With the help of fertility treatment and specialist the family was able to create Anna. Anna was born and immediately became a donor for her sister. She underwent extensive amounts of procedures to donate blood, bone marrow, and platelets to her sister. It isn’t until Anna turns 13 that she no longer wants to be a donor for her sister. Anna decides she does not want to be a donor any more when her parents suggest that she should donate one of her kidneys to her sister. A young girl giving up a kidney means giving up the possibility of ever having a normal life. Research has shown that a person can live a normal life with one kidney. However things that could potentially harm the remaining kidney must be eliminated, for example drinking alcoholic beverages and major contact sports. There is also a chance that the remaining kidney fails on its own and then that person has to begin Dialysis (john hopkins what kidney donors need to know). There are several other complications associated with kidney donation that can lead to a troubled life down the road, and as a result to that Anna decides she will file a lawsuit against her parents for medical emancipation.
A medically emancipated minor, is a person who is found suitable to make their own medical decisions in the court of law. The minor can consult with their parent or other guardian for advice, but the ultimate decision is up to the minor (minor rights vs parent right). Anna hires a lawyer by the name of Campbell Alexander to take on her case. The court appoints a third party person named Julia who is to help the court decide what is medically best for Anna. The case goes to trial, and the truth behind the lawsuit is revealed. Kate asked Anna to stop being a donor for her so she could die. Kate has no desire to go on fighting the battle against her cancer. The court ruled in Anna’s favor to emancipate her. After the trial is over, Anna is on her way to see her family at the hospital when she gets into a terrible car accident. The doctors pronounce her brain dead. Sara and Brian make the decision to take the kidney out of Anna and give it to Kate. The surgery is a success, and Kate goes on to live a life cancer free (Picoult, 2004).

The book as a film

The book was made into a film and there were some major changes. The characters were different; some that were in the book were not in the movie. The major difference would have to be the ending. In the book Anna dies tragically in a car accident. In the movie Kate dies after Anna is granted medical emancipation. The overall plot line was still very similar.


Science and medicine
Without science, there would be no medicine, and without medicine, there would not be a demand for continued scientific research. Science and medicine make up the never ending cycle of life improvement. As time progresses new research is done to find a faster more affective cure for everything. This book discusses genetics, anatomy and physiology, medical research, chemotherapy, and several other topics in science because it is important on getting the point of the book across, but how important are these topics in a real life situation?

Genetics is the study of genes. Geneticists study how traits are passed on from person to person. A person’s physical traits like eye color, hair color, and height are all things that can be determined with genetic studies. Inheritable diseases can also be found with the study of genetics (genes in life, genetics 101). Genetics was founded by Gregor Mendel in the early 1800’s. He performed an experiment with pea plants. The experiment provided information on the rules of heredity (deciphering the genetic code). Mendel used pea plants of different sizes and color and bred them. He found that when he bred certain plants together the plant would have characteristics of one of the plants. This finding gave way to the terms dominant and recessive gene traits (deciphering the genetic code). Genetics are used today to test for diseases like Down syndrome, cancer, Marfan syndrome, and several others. All of these diseases are inherited, and without the study of genetics information of these diseases would not exist (specific genetic disorders). A recent headline about the genetic disease Marfan syndrome was in the news. A young basketball player entering the 2014 NBA draft was diagnosed with having the gene that indicated Marfan syndrome.

Marfan syndrome and how it affects every day people

Stem cell research is another science discussed in this book. Stem cell research is a controversial topic because of how the stem cells are collected. Human stem cells have to be isolated from embryos (stem cell research ). This means that a person has to donate their embryos to science, and that is an ethical issue for some people because it can be considered as killing a life. This is because tissue from a fetus is collected. The fetus will most likely never be brought to term because it is for scientific study, so that can be considered as murder. Despite the ethical issue of stem cell research it has proved to be beneficial because so many different tests can be performed with them (stem cell research ). Stem cells have the ability to regenerate into several different things. A form of stem cells can be isolated from bone marrow and injected into another person to help their blood cells regenerate new blood cells. This is brought up in the book, when Anna was born the doctor took blood from the umbilical cord and used it to inject into Kate to help boost the creation of more blood cells and platelets. Anna also underwent bone marrow aspirations to collect bone marrow to donate to Kate (Picoult, 2004). Bone marrow aspiration and umbilical cord blood are examples of stem cell research because they are stem cells, and they were taken out of one person, and injected into another in hopes of improving a medical condition. After the injection the stem cells were able to repair tissue and regenerate as new tissue (stem cell research ). This put Kate into remission. Without research on stem cells, the doctors would have not known to try this as a form of cancer treatment. Stem cell research will benefit in the long run because it has the potential to help the medical field find out how a person got a certain disease, and then find out how to fix the problem, and cure the patient (stem cell research ).
Designing babies is also a form of science discussed in this book. Designing babies with specific genetic traits is a thing now, but is it moral. The scientific term for designing babies is called “The Principle of Procreative beneficence”; it discusses the rights a parent has to select a baby with the best expected outcome. (SAVULESCU, 2009) This is a complicated process but it can happen. Generally it is not used to pick out a baby that can grow up to be the best looking person in the world, it should be used to select a baby that is maybe predisposed to a genetic disorder, but may have the chance of not having the issue (SAVULESCU, 2009). Go to and read the article about designer babies.
Science is all around and it influences a lot of daily activity. The Book my Sister’s keeper is a book that discusses science in relation to medicine, while also throwing a mixture of ethical issues in as well. Without the science research we have today, we will not be able to find a cure for diseases of tomorrow. Science and medicine go hand in hand, and will continue to do so for years to come.

Works Cited
bone marrow and sickle cell. (n.d.). Retrieved july 2, 2014, from science news:
deciphering the genetic code. (n.d.). Retrieved July 2, 2014, from office of NIH history:
genes in life, genetics 101. (n.d.). Retrieved july 2, 2014, from
genetics home reference, the guide to understanding genetic conditions. (n.d.). Retrieved july 2, 2014, from genetics home reference:
john hopkins what kidney donors need to know. (n.d.). Retrieved july 2, 2014, from john hopkins:
Journal, W. (n.d.). Wikipedia on jodi picoult. Retrieved July 2, 2014, from wikipedia:
minor rights vs parent right. (n.d.). Retrieved july 2, 2014, from medscape:
Oransky, I. (2004). Books: born with a mission. The Lancet, 1743.
organization, C. (n.d.). Retrieved July 2, 2014, from APL cancer organization:
Picoult, J. (2004). My sister’s Keeper. New York City, New York: A division of Simon and Schuster.
picoult, J. (n.d.). Jodi Picoult. Retrieved july 2, 2014, from Jodi
SAVULESCU, J. a. (2009). the moral obligation. Retrieved july 2, 2014, from wiley online library:
specific genetic disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved july 2, 2014, from
stem cell research . (n.d.). Retrieved july 2, 2014, from national institute of health:
wikipedia. (n.d.). wikipedia film my sisters keeper. Retrieved July 2, 2014, from


3 thoughts on “My Sister’s Keeper”

  1. Stem cell research is controversial because of its use of embryos. How avidly do anti-abortion activists fight to cut down on or stop the use of stem cell research? Is this a valid argument when these embryos have been donated specifically for their use in science? Cadavers who have been donated to science are used during teaching sessions with medical students and exploratory autopsies. However, I do not believe there to be many arguments surrounding the what could be called desecration of their remains. Why is the controversy such a fueled one with so many supporters? Is there a religion v. science argument to be had?

    1. Honestly I don’t know if there is a religion vs science issue when it comes to the embryos. From my understanding the issue with the embryos was that they could have been brought to term and could have been some ones child. But instead they were done anyway with. Where as a body donated to science after death is a persons own decision to make after they have lived and died of natural causes or what ever the case may be. You brought up some really good points and I will have to look into some more info and get back with you.

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