Open Letter from Experts in Science, Medicine, Law, and Ethics on the Cloning Provisions of Missouri's Amendment 2

 

A key question regarding Missouri's proposed Amendment 2 is: Would this constitutional amendment prohibit or promote "human cloning"? As individuals who have studied this issue in depth, we hold that it clearly authorizes and promotes human cloning.

A number of us have served on the President's Council on Bioethics, which discussed human cloning extensively and issued a book-length report, Human Cloning and Human Dignity: An Ethical Inquiry (2002). While the Council members disagreed sharply on moral and policy issues surrounding human cloning, they all agreed on what it is:

Human cloning is the asexual production of a new living organism, at any stage of development, that is genetically virtually identical to an existing or previously existing human being. It is done through somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), which introduces the nuclear material of a human somatic cell into an oocyte (egg) whose own nucleus has been removed or inactivated, to create this new organism. And it is designed to produce (and when successful, does produce) a new living organism of the human species, that is, a human embryo.

Researchers may then want to use this embryo for various purposes. Some may want to place the embryo in a womb to attempt live birth ("reproductive" cloning, or as the Council preferred, "cloning to produce children"); others may want to place the embryo in a Petri dish and destroy it for stem cells ("therapeutic" cloning or, more accurately, "cloning for biomedical research," since any therapies from this approach are at this point purely hypothetical). But in either case the cloning technique, and the resulting embryo, are exactly the same.

In short, human cloning for research purposes creates human embryos, using the SCNT procedure, in order to destroy them. This is exactly what Amendment 2 authorizes. In fact, the amendment creates a statewide constitutional right to conduct such human cloning, so competing ethical or human safety considerations, or other state laws, cannot meaningfully limit the research community's right to do human cloning.

Some have tried to claim that the SCNT cloning technique does not produce an embryo. But as this country's most prominent embryonic stem cell researcher, James Thomson of the University of Wisconsin, said last year, such claims are "disingenuous," an attempt to "define away" the moral issue instead of confronting it honestly (MSNBC, June 25, 2005, www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8303756/). Those who say the technique merely produces "stem cells" are simply being evasive -- as currently practiced, SCNT seeks to create a human embryo, so researchers can dissect the embryo for stem cells.

What, then, does Amendment 2 prohibit? It prohibits taking stem cells from a cloned human embryo that has developed more than 14 days outside a womb. And it prohibits transferring a cloned human embryo into a womb "for the purpose of initiating a pregnancy that could result in creation of a human fetus, or the birth of a human being." While the amendment does not define "human fetus," medical textbooks say that an embryo becomes a fetus at the end of the eighth week. So the amendment authorizes research to perfect the SCNT cloning technique to produce embryos, then -- presumably to prevent its use to produce live-born infants -- prohibits the further survival of the resulting cloned humans. Many have pointed out that this raises serious moral, legal and even constitutional issues, for a law prohibiting the survival of cloned humans past a certain point -- in effect, legally mandating an abortion before that point can be reached -- may violate federal constitutional law. But to call Amendment 2 a ban on "cloning" is arbitrary and misleading, because it clearly allows the cloning procedure. It actually prohibits pregnancy, or maintaining a pregnancy past a certain point, if a cloned embryo is involved.

In saying this we take no position on Amendment 2 or on human cloning. Some of us have expressed our views, and our reasons for them, elsewhere. But the people of Missouri should know what they are actually voting on. Amendment 2 creates a constitutional right for researchers to engage in human cloning. Efforts to deny this are misleading and deceptive. 

Signed (institutional affiliations are for identification only):

Markus Grompe, MD
Director, Oregon Stem Cell Center
Professor, Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics
Oregon Health & Science University
Portland, Oregon

Raymond F. Gasser, PhD
Professor and Human Embryologist
Department of Cell Biology & Anatomy
Louisiana State Univ. Health Sciences Center
New Orleans, Louisiana

Mary Ann Glendon
Learned Hand Professor of Law
Harvard Law School

H. Joseph Yost, PhD
Director, Center for Children
Huntsman Cancer Institute
Professor of Oncological Sciences
Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics
University of Utah School of Medicine
Salt Lake City, Utah

Robert P. George
McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence
Professor of Politics
Princeton University

Maureen L. Condic, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy
University of Utah School of Medicine
Salt Lake City, Utah

David C. Hess, MD
Professor and Chairman
Department of Neurology
Medical College of Georgia

Peter Augustine Lawler
Dana Professor of Government
and International Studies
Berry College
Mount Berry, Georgia

William J. Burke, MD, PhD
Professor in Neurology
Associate Professor in Medicine
Associate Professor in Anatomy and Neurobiology
Saint Louis University Health Sciences Center

Jean Peduzzi-Nelson, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology
Wayne State University School of Medicine
Detroit, Michigan

Kenneth J. Dormer, M.S., PhD
Professor, College of Medicine
Department of Physiology
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Gilbert Meilaender, PhD 
Duesenberg Professor in Christian Ethics 
Valparaiso University

  Steven Calvin, MD
Associate Professor
Division of Maternal Fetal Medicine
Department of Obstetrics/Gynecology and Women's Health
Co-Chair, Program in Human Rights and Medicine
University of Minnesota

David A. Prentice, PhD
Affiliated Scholar
Clinical Bioethics
Georgetown Medical Center

Anton-Lewis Usala, MD
President and CEO
CTMG, Inc.
Greenville, North Carolina

William B. Hurlbut, MD
Consulting Professor
The Neuroscience Institute at Stanford
Stanford University Medical Center

Diana J. Schaub, PhD
Professor and Chair
Department of Political Science
Loyola College
Baltimore, Maryland

Joseph R. Zanga, MD, FAAP, FCP
President, American College of Pediatricians
Professor of Pediatrics
Brody School of Medicine
East Carolina University

C. Ward Kischer, PhD
Emeritus Professor
Cell Biology and Anatomy
Specialty in Human Embryology
University of Arizona College of Medicine

James Carroll, MD
Chief, Child Neurology
Vice-Chairman, Department of Neurology
Medical College of Georgia

John I. Lane, MD
Associate Professor of Radiology
Section of Neuroradiology
Mayo Medical School
Rochester, Minnesota

Kevin T. FitzGerald, S.J. PhD, PhD
David P Lauler Chair in Catholic Health Care Ethics
Research Associate Professor
Department of Oncology
Georgetown University Medial Center

Dwayne D. Simmons, PhD
Director, Research Center for Auditory and Vestibular Studies
Department of Otolaryngology
Washington University School of Medicine
St. Louis, Missouri

C. Ben Mitchell, PhD
Director, The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity
Associate Professor of Bioethics & Contemporary Culture
Trinity International University
Deerfield, Illinois

W. Malcolm Byrnes, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Howard University College of Medicine
Washington, DC

Leonard P. Rybak, MD, PhD
Professor of Surgery
Southern Illinois University
School of Medicine
Springfield, Illinois

Donald A. Godfrey, PhD
Professor of Otolaryngology
Department of Surgery
University of Toledo College of Medicine

Keith A. Crutcher, PhD
Department of Neurosurgery
University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
Cincinnati, Ohio

Oswaldo Castro, MD
Acting Director
Howard University Center for Sickle Cell Disease
Washington, DC.

Elizabeth A. Johnson, MD
Consultant, Hematology/Oncology
Mayo Clinic Jacksonville
Assistant Professor of Oncology
Mayo Clinic College of Medicine

David L. Bolender, PhD
Associate Professor 
Department of Cell Biology, 
Neurobiology and Anatomy 
Medical College of Wisconsin

Alfonso Gomez-Lobo, DPhil
Ryan Family Professor
of Metaphysics and Moral Philosophy
Georgetown University
Washington, D.C.

James L. Sherley, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Biological Engineering
Massachusetts
Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts

 

Podcast Episode: 
30