"University Faculty for Life: Submission of Concern to the British House of Lords Re the 'Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Research Purposes) Regulations 2001'"

Dianne N. Irving
Copyright: May 31, 2001
Reproduced with Permission

[For full text of the bill, see http://www.hmso.gov.uk/si/si2001/20010188.htm; for acknowledgement of receipt of UFL submission, see http://www.parliament.the-stationeryoffice.co.uk/pa/ld200102/ldselect/ldstem/83/8313.htm (acknowledgment); for URL of this UFL submission, see http://www.uffl.org/irving/irvlords.htm (full text)]

University Faculty For Life

A multidisciplinary association of scholars speaking out for human life

120 New North Building, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. 20057

UFL Board of Directors:

Tony Rawsthorne
Committee Office
House of Lords
London SW1A OPW

CC: Earl of Carnarvon, Baroness Cumberiege, Lord Dahrendorf, Lord Donoughue, Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall, Baroness Northover, Baroness O'Neil of Bengarve, Bishop of Oxford (Chairman), Baroness Perry of Southwark, Baroness Platt of Writtle, Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe.

May 31, 2001

Dear Select Committee on Human Cloning and Stem Cell Research, House of Lords:

I am contacting you, as a member of the Board of Directors of the University Faculty For Life, concerning your co-sponsoring of the Human Cloning Ban 2001 that is currently before the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate for consideration.

The University Faculty for Life was founded in 1989 to promote research, dialogue and publication among faculty members who respect the value of human life from its inception at fertilization or cloning to natural death. Abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, as well as human embryo and human fetal research, human embryonic stem cell research, and human cloning, are highly controversial topics, but we believe they should not be resolved by the shouting, newsbytes and slogans that have dominated popular presentations. Because we believe the evidence is on our side, we would like to assure a hearing for our views in the academic community, as well as in the social and political communities -- hence our concerns expressed to you here regarding certain concerns we have with the Brownback/Weldon Human Cloning Bill as it is currently written.

The basic issues and concerns of the University Faculty For Life have many dimensions -- political, social, legal, medical, biological, psychological, ethical and religious. We do not have a detailed statement of orthodoxy; rather we have provided an interdisciplinary forum in which scholars can discuss these issues. Since 1990 the UFL has published a newsletter, Pro Vita; since 1991 it has held an annual conference at various university campuses; and since 1992 the Conference Proceedings have been published in book form and distributed to members and hundreds of university libraries. We have sent letters to public figures who misstate biological facts and submitted three amicus curiae briefs on the life issues to the Supreme Court (two of which I authored on "fetal personhood").

The University Faculty For Life includes as its goals the following:

The University Faculty For Life is also communicating our concerns about similar legislation on these related important issues to groups and organizations both in the United States and abroad. The University Faculty For Life strongly supports good research, but also agrees that immediate legislative action must be taken to prevent harmful and unethical human research in these areas.

As you well realize, the issues raised in your Regulations are likewise relevant to other proposed legislation dealing with the integrally related issues of abortion, as well as the various forms of human embryo research -- including human embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, human chimera research, etc. It goes without saying that your legislation, if passed by the House of Lords, will have an immediate impact on similar and related laws, guidelines and regulations passed in other countries around the world. Any legislation passed by the House of Lords and/or the British Parliament on these several critically important issues will in effect act as a "role model" for similar legislation internationally. Such legislation impacts greatly on the health and well-being of the individual members of all of our societies. It is difficult to imagine many issues that would effect our societies' health and well-being more than the abuse of living human subjects in research, and the actual manipulation and permanent designing of the future members of the human species.

We have included in this submission a summary of our concerns, followed by a more detailed and extensively referenced scientific response. We hope that these comments may be helpful to your Committee in reviewing these Regulations, and we thank you very much in advance for allowing us to submit our concerns to you for your thoughtful consideration.

Respectfully submitted,

Prof. Dr. Dianne N. Irving, M.A., Ph.D.
Member of the Board of Directors
University Faculty For Life
5108 Randall Lane
Bethesda, MD 20816-1917
301-229-4176 FAX 301-229-8748

I. Summary of Concerns of the University Faculty for Life:

Relevant to your Questions #2, #5, and #7, we would respectfully submit that:

(1) A. Scientifically, of concern to us is that:

(2) The starting point for considering and determining public policy making in these scientific and medical issues should be the accurate science. We are therefore concerned that in phrasing the issue in terms of "a range of different views world-wide on the acceptability of research on [human] embryonic stem cells" and on "human cloning" the Regulations obfuscate the critical importance of grounding public policy on universally acknowledged and scientifically accurate facts. Many "views" are based simply on subjective personal opinions, or religious beliefs.

(3) The position of the University Faculty For Life, and that of many other individuals and organizations, is based not on "opinion" or "beliefs", but rather on the objective and accurate facts of human embryology and human genetics -- i.e., that the immediate product of human fertilization or of human cloning is a new unique already existing human being, who's fundamental human rights -- among which is the inherent right to life -- should be equally afforded the full range of legal protections as all other living human beings.

(4) We are therefore respectfully concerned that these Regulations, and other related bills:

(5) a) Use scientifically inaccurate human embryology and human genetics as the basis for your public policy decision making -- e.g., (a) the false distinction between "therapeutic" and "reproductive" human cloning, and (b) the scientific myth of the human "pre embryo".

(6) b) Fail to properly and accurately address the scientific facts that: (a) somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is only one method of cloning human beings, and other methods of cloning human beings are possible as well; (b) "embryo splitting" produces new "copies" of human embryos (human beings) rather than just producing "human embryonic stem cells", and is therefore a form of human cloning, as well as a form of human embryo research; (c) "fetal stem cells" are actually usually embryonic stem cells, and are often human germ line cells that are diploid and can therefore be cloned, or used in human DNA-recombinant gene germ line transfer, thus permanently altering future generations of human beings; (d) human chimera research is also a form of human cloning.

(7) B. Ethically of concern to us is that:

(8) a) It would be improbable that legally valid informed consent could really be obtained from the mothers and fathers who are donating their living children to be used as mere biological research materials in even highly questionable research, because of the general lack of accurate scientific facts of human embryology and human genetics being made available to them in these Regulations, in related bills, and in informed consent forms used.

(9) c) The means used to achieve the "therapeutic" and "scientific" goals of these Regulations, even granted that these goals are important and worthy, must also be considered in the equation. If the means used in such research are highly objectionable and unethical, then the research itself should be prohibited, regardless of how acceptable the goals may seem. To intentionally kill innocent living human beings in order to cure diseases in others or to advance scientific knowledge per se is an inherently and highly objectionable unethical means to a goal, and therefore this research should not be permitted.

(10) d) There are many other acceptable and ethical means by which to achieve the same goals, e.g., the use of human adult stem cells and umbilical cord blood cells, and there many other avenues of research available which would not require the intentional killing of innocent living human beings.

II. Detailed Comments on These Regulations:

[Emphases used to aid those unfamiliar with the science]

(11) As we are certain you are aware, it is a long-established objective scientific fact that the immediate product of human fertilization -- in vivo or in vitro -- is a newly existing, genetically unique, individual living human being -- the single-cell human zygotic embryo.1 This is also the beginning of the embryonic period2 as well as the beginning of normal pregnancy in the fallopian tube of the woman.3 These scientific facts are not new; indeed it has been established scientifically since 1880-1885, with publication of the three-volume tomb, Anatomie menschlicher Embryonen, (Vogel, Leipzig) by Wilhelm His, the founder of human embryology.4 The immediate product of human cloning is likewise a newly existing, genetically unique, individual human being.

(12) Hence it is critically important that the House of Lords, and the British Parliament, recognize that all human beings should be equally protected from harm in any research, including any form of human embryo research -- which by definition includes human embryonic stem cell research, IVF research and "therapy", and human cloning.

(13) Because of the objective scientific fact that living human beings are being used simply as "biological materials" in the research proposed to be permitted in these Regulations, we strongly reject such research as inherently unethical, and offer the following considerations:

(14) a) These Regulations do not recognize that the popular so-called distinction between "therapeutic" and "reproductive" human cloning is a "scientific" distinction without a difference -- a false distinction -- and that both forms of human cloning should be banned. Once brought into existence, a living human being continues to exist as such, regardless of the purposes for which he/she is going to be used.

(15) b) The fact that this bill only bans one method of human cloning, i.e., only the "somatic cell nuclear transplant" method of human cloning, it thereby allows all other methods of human cloning -- both "therapeutic" and "reproductive", in the private and the public sectors, using both private and public funds. That is, it would allow the cloning of human beings by such methods of cloning as "parthenogenesis", and "embryo splitting" -- i.e. "blastomere separation", "blastocyst splitting", or "fission", also referred to as "embryo multiplication".5 These are forms of cloning as well as forms of human embryo research . Since IVF-produced human embryos are usually implanted or frozen at the 2 to 16-cell stage of human embryonic development6, they would be prime candidates for the cloning of human beings by means of "embryo multiplication", i.e., human cloning.

(16) It is an objective scientific fact that as long as the cells of the early human embryo are still intact as parts of the whole embryo, these totipotent cells are correctly termed "stem cells". However, once these cells (or, "blastomeres") are separated from the whole embryo, each of these totipotent, or even pluripotent, cells are no longer "stem cells". Single cells, and even groups of cells, are each capable of "healing" themselves (called "regulation"), and reverting back to being a whole human being. This is indeed what takes place naturally in human monozygotic twinning.7 "Embryo splitting", therefore, is also a form of human cloning by which "identical copies" of human beings are produced.

(17) c) By addressing only "asexual" forms of cloning, these Regulations would not cover "sexual" human cloning, i.e., the duplication or "copying" of human DNA by means of DNA-recombinant human germ-line gene transfer to human gametes or human embryos in vitro, which genetic changes are then "copied" by normal sexual reproduction through the subsequent generations.8 DNA-recombinant gene germ-line "therapy" is a form of "positive eugenics", as so defined by researchers themselves,9 and essentially accomplishes the same thing eventually as normal eugenic cloning. It also involves the human germ-line cells, now referred to simply, and erroneously, in the debates as "fetal stem cells."

(18) d) By restricting the ban to the cloning of chromosomal nuclear DNA only (i.e., by means of somatic cell nuclear transfer methods), the bill would not ban cloning of extra-chromosomal and extra-nuclear DNA, e.g., as found in several organelles inside and outside the cell nucleus.10

(19) e) The use of a scientifically incorrect definition of "somatic cell", and a lack of any reference to "germ-line cells", which are also diploid and therefore capable of being cloned11 (i.e., the kind of cells used, e.g., in "fetal stem cell" research) could also allow both "therapeutic" and "reproductive" cloning of human beings -- by SCNT or by any cloning methods other than SCNT -- using human germ-line cells instead of human somatic cells.

(20) f) Human germ-line cells would also, therefore, not be precluded from being obtained from living or dead human subjects for the purposes of cloning human beings or their use in stem cell research.

(21) g) The very problematic issue of the cloning of human chimeras should be clearly addressed in these Regulations. Chimera research would be a form of human cloning, and would also be a form of human embryo research because: (a) theoretically, a human/animal chimera could be "back-bred"12 to produce a new whole human embryo (human being); and, (b) the source of the human DNA used in such chimera research could be living human embryos or fetuses. Therefore, these Regulations would not ban human cloning by means of the formation of human chimeras; additionally, these Regulations would also sanction a form of human embryo research.

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