My Sister's Keeper

My daughter told me that this was her favorite book. So I read the book, My Sister’s Keeper (2004) and watched the movie by the same name (2009), which stars Cameron Díaz, Alec Baldwin, and Joan Cusack.

I’m not normally into fiction reading or chick flicks, but it’s for my daughter. Plus, I majored in philosophy. It reminded me of Judith Thomson’s thought experiment of The Unconscious Violinist.

The story (in the book) goes that a young girl, Anna, 13, sues her parents for medical emancipation, or the right to decide on matters of her own body. Her older sister, Kate, 16, was born with leukemia. Their parents initially conceived Anna for her umbilical cord, but later needed her granulocytes, lymphocytes, other bodily systems, and toward the end her kidney to keep Anna alive.


Judith Thomson’s thought experiment of the unconscious violinist asks, roughly: What would you do if all of a sudden you awoke to find yourself wired to a world-famous unconscious violinist who needed your body to continue living?

His life depends on yours. Upon attaching, his life now comes at your expense. If you assert that you should remain free to walk away (thereby killing him or simply allowing him to die), then you cannot consistently argue that there must also exist a right to life.


I’ve never really cared for the discussion (book vs. movie) much until now. I usually prefer the movie, because that means less reading.

Every time the discussion comes up, people usually say, “The book was better.” Why? My guess, two reasons.

First, investment. Reading requires a lot more mental investment than watching a movie. After spending 8 hours to read 400 pages, single-spaced, I feel plenty of temptation to weigh in favor those 8 hours over the 1.5 hours watching the movie – much like how people rationalize the benefits of an overpriced personal development seminar.

Second, character development vs. plot development. Movies represent short stories that, because of time, aim to focus more on plot development over character development. Books focus more on character development.

Why does this matter? Human connection. It takes more time to create trust and to emotionally connect than to play out a series of events. Books take the time. Books allow for a deeper emotional connection.

Not my usual reading. But worth it. How many other dads would read a 400-page girl story for one of their daughters?