Conceived by means of in vitro fertilization, Anna Fitzgerald (Abigail Breslin) was brought into the world as a savior sister at the informal suggestion of Kate's doctor, Dr. Chance (David Thornton) (a formal suggestion from the doctor would have been a violation of legal and medical ethics). Anna is conceived to be a genetic match for her older sister, Kate (Sofia Vassilieva), who suffers from acute promyelocytic leukemia, to donate compatible organs, blood and tissue in order to keep her sister alive. Her family members are introduced one by one, and each tells about how Kate's illness has affected them personally. When Kate turns 15, she goes into renal failure. Eleven-year-old Anna knows that she will be forced by her parents to donate one of her kidneys. She also realizes that she may not be able to live the life she will want to lead - she may be unable to cheerlead, play soccer, or be a mother. Anna tells her parents that she does not want any of this and proceeds to sue them for medical emancipation and the rights to her own body. Her domineering mother, Sara (Cameron Diaz), who leads an obsessive campaign to keep Kate alive, is indignant at Anna's decision and even strikes her across the face when she receives the notice of court proceedings. Attorney Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin) agrees to work for Anna as her guardian ad litem, suing for partial termination of parental rights. It is later learned he agreed to take the case not for the notoriety, but because he suffers from epilepsy, and is genuinely sympathetic to her predicament.
The film is interlaced with flashbacks that detail Kate and Anna's close relationship, as well as how Kate's illness has affected her siblings' lives and their relationships. In a flashback, Kate also meets a fellow cancer patient, Taylor Ambrose (Thomas Dekker), whom she begins dating. After a date, they kiss outside Kate's house, with Anna and Kate's father Brian (Jason Patric) watching from their bedroom window. After this, he becomes her boyfriend in and out of hospital and supports her as she undergoes treatment. He then asks her to the hospital's "prom" for teen patients; there, they slow-dance, then proceed to a vacant hospital room to have sex. A few days later, Kate is crying because Taylor hasn't called her for several days. Her mother Sara is furious when Kate mentions they did "stuff" after the prom and storms out to ask the nurse where Taylor is, evidently believing that he had dated her daughter merely to sleep with her, and learns that he has died. A grief-stricken Kate later attempts suicide by overdosing on painkillers, but Anna stops her.
Kate makes a request to go to the beach one last time, and Brian obtains permission, and compassionate encouragement, from Dr. Chance to do so. Brian removes her from the hospital for the day and takes her and the kids to the beach. When Brian arrives home to pick everyone up, Sara overreacts and demands that Kate be returned to the hospital immediately. Brian angrily refuses and drives off, threatening Sara with a divorce if she does not join them. Sara later shows up at the beach, where they enjoy one final family outing. To Sara's dismay, the judge (Joan Cusack) decides against summary dismissal, and the case goes to a hearing. During the hearing, Anna and Kate's older brother, Jesse, reveals on the witness stand that Anna is actually acting under Kate's instruction; Kate, not wanting to live any longer, and knowing Sara would be too narrow-minded to listen to her, had gently persuaded Anna to refuse to donate her kidney—it is also revealed that Anna, due to her own reluctance to see Kate die, had been fully prepared to donate her kidney, and had initially been quite upset at Kate's decision. Sara is indignant and attempts to argue, but is finally forced by both Jesse and Brian to realize that Kate had been trying to tell her this for some time. Before the case is decided, Kate dies while sleeping at the hospital with her mother by her side. After Kate's death, Campbell brings the court decision: Anna won the case. The family moves on with their lives, but every year on Kate's birthday they go to Montana, which was her "most favorite place in the world". At the end, Anna says that she will see Kate again and that, in the meantime, their relationship continues.
After watching My Sister's Keeper last night I can't help but have so many opinions about the morality of designing a child to keep another alive.
And although it was the dying child that had made the decision to exorcise her right to let go of life and die by endearing her sister to fight against the donating of her own kidneys, I feel that the morality of designing a child to keep another one alive, for just that little bit longer, has to be questioned.
It must be incredibly difficult to have a child that is dying, and know that if you had the right match your child might be kept alive just a little bit longer. I love both my children and wonder how I would feel and ultimately behave if I had found myself in that position. However, having chewed this over for weeks, I still find myself horrified that the courts, and human rights, would allow it in the first place. I mean making a baby, which will also have to suffer and may also die prematurely, to give another child a few extra, not necessarily good, years, has to be wrong. In my books it is anyway.
I am struggling to express how much this got to me and brought up that people are very short sighted in determining their actions. The truth of the matter is that, none of us live very long. Whether it be 5 years, 50 years, or even 100 years if we are exceptionally lucky, there is not one of us that could, or would be able, to chose which day we might like to die on. We all would like that extra time, especially if we are well enough to enjoy it. But when it comes to feeling unwell, I would ask, how can you enjoy your life no matter how long or short it is, if you feel dreadful? Life is only life when you have life within you!!!
Kate had gotten to the point that she wanted to leave her life, and her family. That is not normal and is an indication of how poorly she must have been feeling. Yes, she'd received an extension in her life, owing to Anna, her designer baby sister, giving her the necessary cells and body parts to keep going for a few years longer. And that extension in life had afforded her some wonderful and unforgettable experiences that she might have missed out on had Anna not been around. And, as a bonus, the family would still have Anna, even if she wasn't whole, once Kate had gone. BUT, I must ask, what about Anna? She was designed for one purpose only and her little life was only of value for that purpose. Anna was born and lived for her sister Kate, she didn't really have a say in any of it. And although, by going to court to have her say in what happened to her own body, she appeared to be fighting, in reality she really had no idea how to feel like that. She'd been designed for one purpose only, and that purpose was written in her from the day she was conceived, she didn't know any other way, she'd done it for too long, without question, to know any different.
Anna won her case after her sister had died. It was what Kate had wanted but could it ever be what Anna wanted? How could she, with a mother so desperate to keep her first daughter alive, feel any other way than her sole purpose in being alive was to put Kate's need first?
How sad for the whole family, but especially for Anna who now had to carry on her life knowing she hadn't been able to accomplish the task she had been born for.