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Children who benefit families
  1. Matthew Formstone1,
  2. Robert Wheeler2
  1. 1 Medicine, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
  2. 2 Paediatric Surgery, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, UK
  1. Correspondence to Matthew Formstone, Medicine, University of Southampton, Southampton, SL7 2PB, UK; mf1n21{at}

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The family of a sick child may benefit from the smallest kindness. Recognition of that kind act may not be forthcoming, partly due to the lack of a descriptor. The ’saviour sibling', created to supply life-saving stem cells to an existing child, is a relatively well-known example of this act of kindness. But the saviour sibling is only a small subset of a broader class of children who benefit their families. The role of this broad class of children in supporting their family is less often articulated. All of these acts of kindness associated with a child, either as the patient or as a bystander, can be described as beneficent. This article provides a descriptor to recognise the part played by a child in their family’s history.

Children can confer benefit on their families. The notion of a ‘saviour sibling’ catches the eye; not least because this provides a label for a body of common law and statute. Current medical literature exclusively refers to a saviour sibling as a child conceived via the use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), for the purposes of providing an organ, or cells, to a sibling with a life-threatening illness.1 An early example was provided by Zain Hashmi; he had beta thalassaemia, requiring a therapeutic matching stem cell transplant. His mother was unable to conceive a child for this purpose and explored the possibility of conceiving an …

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.