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Inspiration for 'My Sister's Keeper' Speaks Out

Couple Wants to Promote Dialogue On Ethical Issues Raised by Novel, Motion Picture

The acknowledged inspiration for Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper novel about a couple who conceives a child to save the life of a daughter with leukemia, is speaking out in response to the release of the movie starring Cameron Diaz.

With the help of Denver infertility specialist Dr. William B. Schoolcraft, the Nashes were able to select an embryo that met two criteria: it didn't carry the genetic abnormality that would cause Fanconi Anemia (FA), an often-fatal genetic disease, and it was a tissue match for Molly Nash who suffered from FA. The selected embryo would later develop to be Molly's little brother Adam. The cord blood from Adam's placenta would be used for a blood transfusion that would save Molly's life. Later a second embryo from the couple would grow to become the couple's third child, Delaine.

"I appreciate the public discussion of the ethical issues raised by the book, and now the movie," said Molly's mom, Lisa Nash. "But it's important to remember Jodi Picoult's story is in many ways a worst case scenario and our reality was one of miracles and hope."

The Nashes were the first couple to use Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) to create an embryo that could save a sibling's life. The bioethical issues raised by the case led to extensive, in-depth coverage in nearly every major media outlet in the world. The coverage caught the eye of author Picoult, who used it as a jumping off point for her novel, My Sister's Keeper.

"We stress to people that the book is fiction and that our family is reality," explains Jack Nash. "The reality is that because of amazing reproductive medicine advances, we have been able to have a family. Without the science, Molly would have died and we wouldn't have tried to have any other children for fear they'd die of FA too. That's the reality."

Dr. Schoolcraft, an internationally recognized expert in reproductive medicine whose Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine (CCRM) was able to allow the Nash's embryos to live longer outside the womb so they were more likely to survive, agrees with the Nashes that the book and movie have spurred an important discussion of the bioethics around PGD.

"These issues are ethically challenging," Dr. Schoolcraft acknowledges. "I think it is wrong, however, to slap the label of designer baby on these kids and dismiss this work as the province of couples who want to create babies to glorify their egos. The Nash's situation, and many that have come since Adam was born eight years ago, show that this science can save lives and lead to loving families."

Lisa Nash commented, "Today when I hear the designer baby label, I laugh. Adam was designed to save his sister's life, but that's where it ended. Professional sports teams will have to look elsewhere. He's our special boy, but he's just a kid."

Lisa is emphatic about the parameters the couple set when working with Dr. Schoolcraft. "We decided Adam's cord blood would be used to attempt to save Molly's life, but that would be it. He would not be used for his blood, marrow or organs after he was born."

Today all the Nash children are thriving. Adam's cord blood succeeded in curing Molly's leukemia. While she still lives with health issues like diabetes, and understands the potential for many types of cancers, Molly is in most ways a typical 14-year-old who loves text messaging her friends and performing in the theater. "Molly lets me do the worrying. She knows what happened with her was a miracle, but she's now focused on being a teenager," her mom said.


SOURCE Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine

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