FRIDAY, December 3, 2004
Session 7: Public Comments
MR. HANSON: Well, thank you for the opportunity to comment
today. The Executive Director of the Center wanted me to extend
his personal greetings to you, Dr. Kass. So greetings from Andrew
Kimbrell. I want to say my comments are going to be on the altered
nuclear transfer technique and I want to begin by offering my personal
words to Bill and how much I appreciate his thoughtful thinking.
But, we're told that this procedure is intended as a means
of avoiding the destruction of embryos in producing embryonic stem
cells, but we think this notion is mistaken in that we believe that
the technique actually does produce embryos albeit defective ones
through a combination of cloning and human germline and genetic
engineering. We think if the proposed experiment were to be conducted
on human embryos, it would confront us with an ethical question
about whether we produce any human life solely for its commercial
We also think there's a second ethical watershed that would
be crossed. This would be in effect, the first human germline,
genetic engineering experiment. For the first time, we would be
engineering human life at its earliest stages. In fact, it seems
to require two engineerings. We do not believe that society should
cross these boundaries without a very full public debate. We urge
the council to support an immediate moratorium on all such experiments
with human embryos until a robust public debate has occurred and
there is wide public consensus that we have in place safeguards
to prevent abuse of this potential technology.
We go on and list some other concerns we have but those are out
two main concerns and I thank you for your time.
CHAIRMAN KASS: Thank you very much and hold it just a
second. If there is a longer statement either now or soon, I think
this would be welcome and we'll see that it's circulated
to everybody here. The genetic modification aspect of this is an
issue that so far hasn't been discussed today and whether or
not this is or is not an organism or an embryo, there are people
who have reason to be concerned about such genetic engineering close
to the human and I think the point — it's something we
will want to talk about.
MR. HANSON: We also, just to briefly summarize the longer
point, we also have some concerns that this — even if the
proponents don't consider this an embryo, they may well want
to patent it. The patent office might consider in embryo-like enough
to use it as a precedent. So we have other concerns as well.
CHAIRMAN KASS: Thank you very much.
MR. HANSON: I do have copies of the statement I'll
leave with whoever.
CHAIRMAN KASS: If you'd just leave it with Diane Gianelli,
she'll see that all of us get sent this. Thank you very much.
MR. HANSON: Thank you very much.
CHAIRMAN KASS: Richard Doerflinger.
MR. DOERFLINGER: I also want to talk about altered nuclear
transfer. I have — as many on the council know — have
been skeptical and remain skeptical of many claims for the unique
benefits of embryonic stem cells, including those derived from nuclear
transfer. That being said, I know many scientists believe in those
unique benefits, and some of them share my moral convictions against
destroying human life at any stage.
If, and this is a big if, a procedure can be found to provide
embryonic stem cells without creating or destroying embryos, that
would address the Catholic Church's most fundamental moral objection
to embryonic stem cell research as now pursued. Clearly, such a
procedure would not be prohibited by the cloning bans the Catholic
bishops have supported at the state or federal level, which routinely
exempt the use of nuclear transfer or any other cloning procedure
to produce tissues, organs or cells other than human embryos.
I, therefore, see no moral reason at this time to oppose the further
exploration of this theory in an animal model so its feasibility
can better be assessed. This would give scientists an opportunity
to show their real commitment is to scientific progress, not to
the exploitation of embryos, and gives organizations like mine an
opportunity to show that our concern is respect for life, not a
fear of scientific research or scientific progress.
Regarding one particular technique for pursuing this, the deletion
of the cdx2 gene, I for one am not convinced it fulfills my criterion
for saying the resulting entity is never an embryo. Surely, it
is not enough to say the genetic defect preventing organismal development
was introduced into the genome from the very beginning. Any adult
who develops Huntington's disease at the age of 40 had the genetic
defect ab initio. But it also matters what development has taken
place in the meantime.
If that gene is expressed only after the 16 to 32-cell stage,
it seems to me this would be an embryo that undergoes normal development
as a human organism to a certain point and then dies. Surely the
entity has to depart from organic human development from the beginning
to fulfill what I would see as the correct goal for altered nuclear
If no procedure can be found that truly produces embryonic stem
cells but not an embryo, my objections would certainly be equal
to some of those raised by Mr. Hanson.
Finally, the problem of using human eggs and the potential of exploiting
women for their eggs will ultimately have to be addressed once this
is attempted in humans. Perhaps animal eggs will turn out to be
sufficient. Those have proved very disappointing to researchers
trying to use cloning to make normal human embryos using animal
eggs, but here we are not trying to make normal human embryos.
Perhaps very few eggs of any kind will be needed, because this
technique will be used chiefly to make a few cell lines as disease
models or for drug testing. Increasingly, proponents of cloning
for research are admitting that large scale use of nuclear transfer
to make cells for direct therapeutic use in patients is doomed to
practical and economic failure. I would only note that it would
have been nice for them to admit that before they managed to convince
the voters of California to approve the $3 billion give-away for
cloning last month. Or perhaps other ways to achieve complete or
partial reprogramming of a body cell nucleus without using an egg
will be further refined and replace the use of eggs for this technique.
I do simply want to offer the caveat that this problem ultimately
must be addressed as well, the problem of use of human eggs, if
this approach is to achieve moral consensus. But at this time, I
certainly appreciate the conceptual model that Dr. Hurlbut has presented,
and I think exploration in animal models is well worth at least
pursuing at this time. Thank you.
CHAIRMAN KASS: Since you have the floor and since you
are really one of the most meticulous and thoughtful and careful
people about such things and even though you didn't come prepared
to speak about it, do you have any reaction to the other proposal
of developing criteria for death in embryos follow — only
following which would the removal of embryos be attempted? Does
that strike you as morally acceptable, questionable? Do you have
— or would you rather think about it and let me know privately?
MR. DOERFLINGER: I would rather think about it. I came
in late and was not here for the presentation and have not read
the materials, and I will certainly study that as well. Anything
that achieves the promised scientific benefits without exploiting
or destroying human life is something that the Church wants to have
an open mind to, so I will certainly study that as well.
CHAIRMAN KASS: Thank you very much. I think we've
done everything that we hoped to do at this meeting and more. I
thank our guests especially. Thanks to council members. Thanks
to the members of the public and the meeting is adjourned.
(Whereupon, at 12:13 p.m. the above entitled