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Saviour siblings: no avoiding the hard questions
  1. Colin Gavaghan
  1. Correspondence to Dr Colin Gavaghan, NZ Law Foundation Centre for Law and Policy in Emerging Technologies, Faculty of Law, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand; colin.gavaghan{at}

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Michelle Taylor-Sands is sceptical of the sorts of reasons that have typically been advanced in support of creating saviour siblings.1 In particular, she is critical of the claim that being created or serving as a tissue donor confers benefit to the child. Any such benefits, she contends, are ‘speculative and ultimately unconvincing’ (p. 60). With regard, for example, to the claim that the saviour sibling will sustain ‘psychosocial benefits’, she argues that this is contingent upon the success of the treatment; ‘where donation is unsuccessful, the psychosocial benefits to the donor child are outweighed by the psychosocial harms’ (p. 60).

The precarious nature of such claims, Taylor-Sands maintains, provides a reason to be sceptical of an individualistic approach to the child's interests, and to seek instead to justify the creation of saviour siblings, and their role as donors, on several other grounds. These include:

  1. that the saviour sibling shares ‘collective interests’ with its intimate family; and

  2. that the future child himself/herself owes duties to family members, simply by virtue of having been born into that family.

Family interests

The first claim does more than reassert the familiar acknowledgement,2 ,3 that the child may come to sustain indirect …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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