On Feb. 7, doctors in France announced that the country’s first “saviour sibling” was born. Popularly termed a “bébé-médicament” (medicine baby), a saviour sibling is conceived through in-vitro fertilization and screened to ensure its cells could be used to treat a brother or sister with a genetic disorder.
Umut-Talha (“our hope” in Turkish) was born on Jan. 26 in good health at Antoine Beclere Hospital in Clamart, a Parisian suburb. His embryo was selected so that it was not a carrier for a gene that caused his two siblings to suffer from beta-thalassemia, a fatal blood disorder which leads to anemia. The child, which was also screened to provide treatment cells for the two children using umbilical cord blood, a valuable source of stem cells, was chosen from a group of 12 embryos. The first publicly announced saviour sibling was born in the United States in 2000.
The French pro-life group, Alliance pour les Droits de la Vie, suspects that the announcement of the saviour sibling was intended to correspond with parliamentarians’ review of the country’s bioethics law. The baby, the Alliance said, “was conceived, not for himself, but for another.” Tugdual Derville, the Alliance’s director, said in a press release, “this is a serious attack on its dignity that poses strong risks of psychological repercussions, especially if it disappoints.” The group notes that little attention is given to 10 other families who attempted the same process without success.
Furthermore, the group said there is “an ethical and democratic alternative … the use of umbilical cord blood from the existing French and international stock.” Thus, “under the cover of the laudable intention of healing a child, a brother is chosen according to somebody else’s objectives and other brother and sisters are destroyed that do not comply with this project. This is a particularly pernicious form of eugenics.”