Sharing ideas from across the globe exposes a person to different views, but sometimes a book does it even better. For me, that book was My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. It's a book about the rather difficult choices a family made when a child was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia. Her sister was conceived - genetically engineered - to be a perfect match, for procedures that become increasingly invasive, until at the age of 13 she decided to hire a lawyer, and sue her parents, for the right to decide how her body is to be used.
I have a pen pal who suffers from ataxia due to brain damage. It causes her to have seizures, so she uses a service animal, just like the lawyer in Picoult's book, and she's gradually losing her sight as well. Technically, I understood what my friend was going through, but the emotion behind such a life, the hardship of simple daily living, was something I never imagined, until I read the book. And like Katie in Picoult's book, my friend lives one day at a time, knowing there could be no tomorrow. She had been told, just like in the book, that stem cell treatments could give her a better chance at living. She has come close to having a stem cell treatment, using the umbilical cord of her niece, but because it was illegal where she lives, the treatment was never carried out. However, in Picoult's story, it was, several times.
Picoult was able to tackle the issue from various angles, making it hard to take sides, and readers are likely to be sympathetic to all sides of the case. I found it frighteningly thought-provoking. The story shows evidence of thorough research. It does not answer many questions, but it certainly raises some. What I found rather disturbing about it, though, was the protagonist's devotion to the child with leukaemia, which is totally understandable, and her complete lack of sympathy for the donor (sister)'s predicament, as well as neglecting her troubled son. As a mother who loves her child, I just could not understand using one child to save another, despite knowing how profound a mother's love can be.
However, the book gave me a deeper appreciation for my friend, and I am less judgemental about stem cell treatments, because it hit too close to home this time.