Ethical decisions are not always easy and are certainly not as simple or clear-cut as many would like to believe. In the movie My Sister’s Keeper, the audience is presented with the Fitzgerald family’s decision to conceive a second daughter using in vitro fertilization. While this method of conception alone is still controversial for some, the true issue is revealed as we learn that Anna Fitzgerald was specifically created to be a genetic match for her ailing older sister, Kate Fitzgerald (Cassavetes, 2009). Sara -- the girls’ mother -- fights throughout the film to keep Kate alive using various forms of medical treatment. In the turning point of the film, Sara looks to Anna to donate a kidney to Kate, who has now gone into renal failure (Cassavetes, 2009). Here, the true gravity of their ethical decision comes to light. Just the same, there are other trivial decisions presented in the film.
Kate is terminally ill, and, despite her mother’s best efforts, she will eventually die of cancer. Throughout the film, the audience is confronted with the harsh reality of Anna’s true purpose for joining the family. In a memorable line in the film, Anna states, “Most babies are accidents. Not me. I was engineered. Born to save my sister's life” (Cassavetes, 2009). However, instead of addressing and resolving the ethical implications of this decision, Kate and Anna’s parents seem overly concerned with Kate’s budding romance with another cancer patient, Taylor (Cassavetes, 2009). In the film, Kate and Tyler eventually consummate their relationship. When Taylor disappears and does not call Anna for several days, Sara is consumed by the morality behind Taylor’s actions (or inactions) and seeks to make things right (Casssavetes, 2009). This seems especially trivial when we learn that Taylor did not call because he has died, but even more so when compared to Sara’s own decisions in the film. In their text, Reece and Brandt (2103), describe “values” as beliefs and preferences that influence behavior, with “core values” being the most intrinsic of them all (p. 101). In My Sister’s Keeper, Sara’s belief that Kate needed to be protected from everything (even Taylor) influenced her behavior to go after Taylor for what she perceived was hurting Kate. However, this same core value clouded her judgment when it came to making the decision to conceive a second child in order to try and cure Kate’s medical problems. Instead, of focusing on the ethical exploitation related to Anna, she remained fixated on Kate.
This scene deeply conflicted with my own core values. As a mother, I feel an obligation to protect my own daughter, and this is certainly a value that I hold dear. However, that obligation to protect my child would not apply any less to one of her siblings. My core value can easily be defined as being a good mother overall, which would include behaviors such as caring, compassion, and fairness. It would fly in the face of my core values to help one child to the detriment of another. Reece and Brandt (2103) opine that values are often the result of social and family influences (p. 102). My sense of obligation as a mother, as the authors predicted, was developed by watching other women in my generation and in my family while growing up. This began with a solid example set by my own mother. As a result of this influence, I have grown into the mother that I am today. Also, as a result, the decision made by Sara in the movie is unfathomable to me.
Lastly, my core values have helped me make many decisions throughout my life, including some cumbersome ones. As a student and a mother, I am repeatedly challenged with demands on my time. I have personal, professional and educational obligations, and they often contradict one another. While the importance of my role as a mother remains one of my core values, it is also important for me to feel like I have attained a certain degree of personal success. This translates into doing well in school. At the same time, it means that I may not always have as much free time as I would like to spend on personal projects, or even doing nothing at all. My core values have helped me to put the more trivial activities that arise from time-to-time aside, in favor of those that would benefit my family or my education. This decision came after a period of introspection and evaluation of what was truly important to me. After the decision was finally made, I was somewhat relieved. I was even more confident in knowing that I had made a decision that did not compromise those things that I know are most important.
Cassavetes, N. (Director). (2009). My sister's keeper [Motion picture]. U.S.A.: New Line Home Entertainment.
Reece, B. L., & Brandt, R. (2013). Effective human relations (12th ed., International ed.). Mason, Ohio: South-Western.