Bio-ethics in fiction or are clones humans too?

I’m taking a class this summer (because I think learning is fun) called Angelology, Anthropology, and Hamartiology. Translation: Angels, Humans, and Sin. I spent an hour this evening folding clothes and listening to a lecture on bio-ethics. You know, the subjects you don’t bring up in polite society because people can’t agree on them and they can be relationship killers: abortion, whether embryos are people, physician-assisted suicide, euthanasia, and cloning.

The professor contends, and I agree, that your stance on what is acceptable will generally come back to your definition of what makes a person. To make this fun (is that possible?), let’s look at a couple of books I’ve read that center around some of these issues.

The first is Jill Williamson’s Replication:The Jason Experiment. An interesting book about a clone farm, and a Jason that got away. Are clones people? Do they have a soul? Does God love them? Can they be saved? Interesting questions explored from a Christian world-view.

Or could it be that clones might be less than a person? If they are a copy of an individual, then does that make them sub-human? What if they were created for a purpose and that purpose was to serve as an organ donor? Like the case in our next novel, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Both of these novels are futuristic and dystopian-like in nature. They are plausible, someday our culture might get there, but not realistic for today.

What about a more real-life example? Jodi Picoult’s realistic fiction book, My Sister’s Keeper, is about a girl who sues her parents because they want her to donate one of her organs to save her sibling. The reason she was born was because her parents wanted a second child to be a bone-marrow match for her older sister. It doesn’t mean that they don’t love her or that they love her older sister more, it’s just something they did. But what if the younger daughter doesn’t want to give an organ? What if she’s tired of all the injections, surgeries, procedures that she’s endured on behalf of her sister? Or better yet, what about her older sister? What if she’s ready to be done fighting the cancer that has plagued her all her life? Does she have the right to refuse further treatment?

I love reading books like these because they ask difficult questions and give us a chance to look at scenarios from different points of view from the safety of our favorite reading chair. They expand our mind, challenge our perceptions, and make us sensitive to people and situations around us. They offer another way to explore bio-ethics besides sitting through a class lecture, or maybe in addition to taking classes.

Let me hear from you: what books have you read that have challenged the way you’ve thought about controversial issues? Are there any more books that you would add to my list?

Celebrating Life and February 14

I started to research the history and origin of Valentine’s Day for this blog, but that got really boring really quick. I chocolate heartslasted about twenty-four seconds. So I moseyed onto recent trends related to Valentine’s Day which proved to be a lot more interesting. Did you know…

  • Hallmark began offering Valentine’s Day cards in 1913. Okay, yes, this qualifies as history but it’s a quirky, interesting tidbit of history so I’m going to include it.
  • Somewhere between 142 and 151 million (figures vary) Valentine’s cards are exchanged each year, not including the packaged kids’ valentines for classroom exchange. Valentine’s Day falls behind Christmas and in front of Mother’s Day in the number of cards exchanged for a holiday.
  • According to the National Retail Federation, the average person celebrating Valentine’s Day spent $130 in 2013. Ho-ly cow!

I guess we’re not “average”. Not even close. Oh, we like Valentine’s Day. We’re definitely not part of the it’s-a-totally-manufactured-holiday-that-I-refuse-to-participate-in camp. In fact Valentine candy shows up in our candy dishes right about February 1. We have a thing about holiday candy—any holiday candy. The special shapes, colors, flavor combos are a big hit at our house. And we LOVE homemade sugar cookies with buttercream frosting—heart shaped, of course—complete with red, pink, and purple sprinkles. Yum…

But I got really excited when my research led to the discovery that Valentine’s Day shares February 14 with another very important event: National Organ Donor Day. This nationwide awareness campaign focuses on five points of life: organs, tissues, marrow, platelets, and blood. Many non-profit health organizations choose this day to sponsor blood and marrow drives and encourage people to sign-up as organ and tissue donors. National Donor Day began in 1998 with the Saturn Corporation and its United Auto Workers partners in conjunction with the support of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other non-profit health organizations.

organ donor dayWe’ve long supported organ donation, but our interest in this life-saving procedure took a personal turn when one of my daughter’s friends was listed for a transplant. At first Ashley Pearce, 26, of Eureka, California, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of 5, needed a double-lung transplant. Then it was determined she needed a new heart as well. And finally, the announcement came that she would also need a kidney.

What began as basically a “routine” hospital admission for Ashley who had lost count of how many times she’s been admitted over the years, turned into more than sixty days at Stanford University Medical Center, some six hours from home. Her husband, Marcus, and her mother, Lisa, kept vigil at her bedside, filling the roles of advocate, supporter and encourager. As prayers poured in from family and friends across the country, fundraising efforts, already underway for some time in anticipation of the need for transplant, were stepped up.

Ashley’s condition worsened rapidly, and it appeared time was running out. But thanks to the generous nature of an unknown young woman, Ashley received her triple organ transplant at Stanford on January 28. Even as her family celebrated Ashley’s chance for a new life, they prayed for a family mourning the loss of their precious daughter.

Ashley’s fierce determination and amazing strength had pushed her to overcome so many obstacles just to make it to the point of transplant. Due to the criticalness of her condition at the time of surgery and the extensive nature of a triple-organ transplant, Ashley’s recovery will be a lengthy process. The road to recovery has already been paved with numerous bumps, but every positive step is celebrated by a legion of family and friends.

I’ve dubbed Ashley’s husband Marcus “the warrior by her side”. His commitment, devotion and sacrifice toward his bigger heartsyoung wife—they married in the summer of 2013—is nothing short of breathtaking. With a positive attitude that never seems to wane, he journeys beside her. Theirs is a true love story. One that should be celebrated on Valentine’s Days and every other day of the year.

For more about Ashley’s journey to transplant visit You may follow her recovery at

I hope you have a great February 14. After you indulge in that mega box of chocolates from your honey, gaze with appreciation at the bouquet of flowers from your sweetheart or savor the romantic dinner-for-two at your favorite restaurant, take a moment to visit to learn more about giving the gift of life.

What’s the best Valentine’s Day gift you ever received? The best you ever gave?