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Six-year-old Abhijeet Solanki in Ahmedabad who earlier needed around 18-20 blood transfusions annually, is now cured of thalassemia and does not need any more transfusions, all thanks to his one-year-old sibling Kavya donating some part of her bone marrow. Kavya Solanki is India’s first-ever ‘saviour sibling’ who was born after her parents conducted a pre-implantation genetic diagnosis at fertility clinics. Six months after the transplantation, she is healthy and carries the minor thalassemia gene herself.

Topic: Case Study.

7. Six-year-old Abhijeet Solanki in Ahmedabad who earlier needed around 18-20 blood transfusions annually, is now cured of thalassemia and does not need any more transfusions, all thanks to his one-year-old sibling Kavya donating some part of her bone marrow. Kavya Solanki is India’s first-ever ‘saviour sibling’ who was born after her parents conducted a pre-implantation genetic diagnosis at fertility clinics. Six months after the transplantation, she is healthy and carries the minor thalassemia gene herself.

The concept of saviour siblings is an emerging medical technology. Through assisted reproductive technology, several embryos were extracted and their genetic make-up was checked for features that matched with the elder sibling prior to implantation. The matching one was then implanted and the pregnancy period was completed. Kavya was born in October 2018 and the bone marrow transplantation was conducted in March 2020. This mode of therapy is actively being performed in the US since 2000.

This concept of saviour siblings has started a debate on whether the procedure is ethical in itself. IVF specialists have told that the pre-implantation genetic diagnosis technique is ethical and legal for single-gene diseases like thalassemia.

    1. Analyse the ethical issues involved in the concept of ‘saviour sibling’?
    2. Would this set a precedent for selecting certain babies having desirable traits?
    3. What should be the way forward with respect to ‘saviour sibling’ as a medical technology?

(Answer in 250 words)

Difficulty level: Moderate.

Why the question:

The question is part of the static syllabus of General studies paper – 4 and part of ‘Case Study Fridays’ in Mission-2022 Secure.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction: 

Begin by explaining the importance of saving lives via transplantations and in this context explain the concept of saviour sibling.

Body:

  1. Write about the ethical issues involved. Discarded embryos, sex-selective process, autonomy of the saviour sibling, legal challenges, a treatment only rich can afford etc.
  2. Write about the similarities in the process of saviour sibling and selecting certain babies having desirable traits. Bring outs its ramifications.
  3. Write a way forward for its regulation, prevent its misuse etc.

Conclusion:

Pass a judgement on the ethicality of the concept of saviour sibling.