My Sister’s Keeper
Wednesday, part 1
From Julia’s section through Anna’s section
At their apartment, Julia and Izzy talk, and Julia cries over Campbell. He did the exact same thing to her that he did in high school. The next morning at the courthouse, Julia hears Campbell and Anna fighting over Anna’s refusal to take the stand. Julia confronts Campbell and tells him that both he and Anna are cowards afraid of facing consequences. Julia also tells Campbell he runs away every time someone gets close to him. Campbell starts to tell Julia something about his dog, but Vern Stackhouse interrupts to tell them the hearing needs to begin.
In the courtroom, Sara questions a psychiatrist named Dr. Neaux. She asks him about the potential harm Anna will suffer if Kate dies. Dr. Neaux says that if Anna donates her kidney and keeps Kate alive she will experience an immense benefit. He also does not believe Anna capable of making her own medical decisions. While Sara questions the doctor, Campbell jokes with Anna about the names of Dr. Neaux and Dr. Chance. Campbell then questions Dr. Neaux. He suggests Sara defines whether or not she is a good mother by her ability to keep Kate healthy. Campbell also suggests that Sara, who also stands to benefit by Kate staying alive, can’t make independent decisions any better than Anna.
Campbell questions Julia on the stand. Julia says she can see how the Fitzgeralds want to do everything possible to save Kate, but how medically it does not serve Anna’s best interests to donate a kidney. Julia says that no one in Anna’s family has the ability to make unbiased decisions regarding Anna’s health care, but Anna also lacks the ability to make her own decisions.
Campbell realizes Julia will not veto Anna’s petition. He also recognizes how much the case has affected Julia, the same way it has affected him. Julia, however, expresses those feelings. Judge DeSalvo asks for Julia’s recommendation to the court, but she says she hasn’t been able to reach a decision. Anna stands up and tells Judge DeSalvo she has something to say.
On the witness stand, Anna notices that Campbell looks awful and sweats. Campbell walks up to Anna and cracks a joke, giving Anna the courage to continue. She notices Campbell’s dog behaving excitedly, and Judge DeSalvo asks Campbell to control him. Campbell begins to question Anna and asks her why she wanted to file the petition.
In a flashback to two months before, Sara and Brian sit Kate and Anna down to talk. They say Kate needs a kidney transplant, and the kidney will have to come from Anna. Before Anna can reply, Kate says she doesn’t want the transplant. Sara snaps that if Kate won’t accept the kidney it will be just like suicide. Kate says if she’s already dying it’s not suicide.
In the present, Campbell’s dog barks and jumps, but Campbell ignores him and continues with his questions. He asks Anna if she decided to file the lawsuit herself. Anna tries to lie but responds that someone else convinced her. Campbell asks Anna who, and Anna tells him it was Kate. Just then, Campbell collapses to the floor.
The epigraph for this chapter, a quotation from John Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” imagines flames that give off visible darkness rather than light, recalling the idea of dark matter from previous chapters. If dark matter symbolizes the hidden motives of the characters, then “darkness visible” refers to the fact that these motives may finally become clear to the other characters involved and to the reader. Accordingly, Anna finally reveals the secret she has hidden throughout the story, that Kate herself convinced Anna to file the lawsuit for medical emancipation that could ultimately lead to Kate’s death. Additionally, Campbell comes close to telling Julia the reason he needs a service dog, just after she accuses him of not letting anyone get close, but he hesitates at the last moment. Even so, the way Campbell’s dog behaves in court and the fact that Campbell collapses, however, indicate that Campbell’s secret will not stay hidden much longer.
Kate’s comment to Sara when Kate refuses the kidney transplant—that it’s not suicide if you’re already dying—brings up another ethical issue, that of euthanasia, or assisted suicide. Kate’s case differs from most assisted suicide cases in that she does not ask someone to kill her, just that they allow her to die. But the ethical question about a terminally ill patient’s right to die still applies to Kate’s situation. Kate has become tired of the constant and often painful struggle required for her to stay alive. As she puts it, she’s sick of everything: the hospitals, the chemo, and the radiation. She doesn’t say so explicitly, but she suggests that she just wants the suffering to end. Sara and Kate hold conflicting views that reflect their perspectives. Sara, as Kate’s mother, wants to keep Kate alive at any cost, no matter how difficult the process may be. Kate, however, is the one dying and the one that must endure both the leukemia and the harsh treatments. As with all the other ethical questions raised by the novel, no clear right or wrong answer emerges in this case.
In fact, Julia’s inability to come up with a definitive recommendation for the court emphasizes the vagueness of the line between right and wrong that we see throughout the novel. Julia, who was assigned to determine whether medical emancipation would be in Anna’s best interest, has collected all the evidence available. Yet no clear course of action stands out, suggesting that in this case and in other cases like it, no “right” option actually exists. Instead, each character has his or her own idea of what would be right for Anna and the family. The situation implies that morality is subjective, because each character brings her own experiences and desires into her calculation of what is right. In many ways, Julia’s decision, or lack thereof, mirrors the reader’s experience. Julia, like the reader, came into the Fitzgerald family’s story with no prior knowledge of the family’s dynamics or history. She has gathered her evidence the same way the reader has: by listening to and observing the different players involved in the situation. She has paid particular attention to Anna, just as the reader has. And like the reader, she sees that each argument, Anna’s and Sara’s, makes valid points, resulting in a stalemate regarding who is right and who is wrong.