University Faculty for Life: Submission of Concern to the Canadian CIHR Re the 'Human Stem Cell Research Recommendations 2001'

Professor Morison sketched his views on the relation between ethics, law, and religion and reviewed the brief history of 'the infelicitously named bioethics,' the results of which he 'was reasonably happy [with], but I fear for the future.' The future he feared was one in which ethics and religion were turned into law and regulation: 'What one fears is that the Commission may become the mechanism whereby the speculations of the ethicists become the law of the land. It is already far too easy for abstract notions of right and wrong to emerge as deontological rules which begin their public life as 'guidelines' but culminate in the force of law.' Morison's letter was a sobering reminder of the anomalous role of an 'ethics commission' in a pluralistic, secular society.50

We strongly urge the CIHR Working Group to consider these inherent problems with and concerns about "bioethics" before using it -- in whole or in part -- as the basis for "what is ethical" in its Recommendations.

(e) Informed consent impossible:

Although the Recommendations allude several times to the critical importance of informed consent, especially for the women involved who are donating their living embryos, these Recommendations, if followed, would not accomplish this important legal and ethical requirement. Because of the general lack of current accurate scientific facts of human embryology and human genetics used, ignored, or assumed in the Recommendations, and because the specific actual kinds of research use to which their children would be put is unknown to them, these Recommendations and related bills would actually preclude legally or ethically valid informed consent from being obtained.

f) Ethically acceptable research using adult stem cells is available:

There are many other acceptable and ethical means by which to achieve the same therapeutic and scientific goals, e.g., the use of human adult stem cells and umbilical cord blood cells,51 and there many other alternative avenues of research available which would not require the intentional killing of innocent living human beings.

In sum: The University Faculty for Life would support only ethical medical research using adult human stem cells, or other ethical medical research which does not involve the killing of innocent living human begins -- at any stage of development.


1  Keith Moore and T.V.N. Persaud, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology (6th ed. only) (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1998), p. 18: "Human development is a continuous process that begins when an oocyte (ovum) from a female is fertilized by a sperm (or spermatozoon) from a male. (p. 2); ibid.: ... but the embryo begins to develop as soon as the oocyte is fertilized. (p. 2); ibid.: Zygote: this cell results from the union of an oocyte and a sperm. A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo). (p. 2); ibid.: Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm ... unites with a female gamete or oocyte ... to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual."

William J. Larsen, Essentials of Human Embryology (New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1998), p. 17: "Human embryos begin development following the fusion of definitive male and female gametes during fertilization" (p. 1); ibid.: ... "These pronuclei fuse with each other to produce the single, diploid, 2N nucleus of the fertilized zygote. This moment of zygote formation may be taken as the beginning or zero time point of embryonic development."

Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola Muller, Human Embryology &amp Teratology (New York: Wiley-Liss, 1994), pp. 5, 19, 55: "Fertilization is an important landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed. (p. 5); ibid.: Fertilization is the procession of events that begins when a spermatozoon makes contact with a secondary oocyte or its investments ... (p. 19); ibid.: The zygote ... is a unicellular embryo." (p. 19); ibid: "The ill-defined and inaccurate term pre-embryo, which includes the embryonic disc, is said either to end with the appearance of the primitive streak or ... to include neurulation. The term is not used in this book." (p. 55). [Back]

2  Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola Muller, Human Embryology & Teratology (New York: Wiley-Liss, 1994), p. 55: "Prenatal life is conveniently divided into two phases: the embryonic and the fetal. The embryonic period proper during which the vast majority of the named structures of the body appear, occupies the first 8 postovulatory weeks. ... [T]he fetal period extends from 8 weeks to birth ...

Bruce M. Carlson, Human Embryology & Developmental Biology (St. Louis, MO: Mosby, 1999), p. 447: After the eighth week of pregnancy the period of organogenesis (embryonic period) is largely completed, and the fetal period begins." [Back]

3 Bruce M. Carlson, Human Embryology & Developmental Biology (St. Louis, MO: Mosby, 1999), p. 2: "Human pregnancy begins with the fusion of an egg and a sperm. ... finally, the fertilized egg, now properly called an embryo, must make its way into the uterus ...." [Back]

4 Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola Muller, Human Embryology & Teratology (New York: Wiley-Liss, 1994), p. 3. [Back]

5 See, for example, Prof. Dr. Mithhat Erenus, "Embryo Multiplication" "In such cases, patients may benefit from embryo multiplication, as discussed in the study by Massey and co-workers. ... Since each early embryonic cell is totipotent (i.e., has the ability to develop and produce a normal adult), embryo multiplication is technically possible. Experiments in this area began as early as 1894, when the totipotency of echinoderm embryonic cells was reported ... In humans, removal of less than half of the cells from an embryo have been documented. No adverse effects were reported when an eighth to a quarter of the blastomeres were removed from an embryo on day 3 after insemination. ... Further evidence supporting the viability and growth of partial human embryos is provided by cryopreservation. After thawing four-cell embryos, some cells may not survive, leaving one-, two-, or three-cell embryos. These partial embryos survive and go to term, but at a lower rate than whole embryos. ... Based on the results observed in lower order mammals, the critical period of development to ensure success in separating human blastomeres should be at the time of embryonic gene expression, which is reported in humans to be between the four- and eight-cell stages. .... The second potential method of embryo multiplication is blastocyst splitting. ... Embryo multiplication by nuclear transfer has been used in experimental cattle breeding programs. ... IVF clinics routinely replace multiple (three to four) embryos into the uterus to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy. For couples who have less than three quality embryos for transfer, blastomere separation could be of benefit." [Back]

6  Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola Muller, Human Embryology &amp Teratology (New York: Wiley-Liss, 1994), p. 20: "In vitro fertilization involves the removal of an oocyte from an ovary under negative pressure, its culture and fertilization, and transfer of the embryo to the uterus. Successful IVF (Steptoe and Edwards) began with oocyte recovery, in vitro fertilization and culture, transfer of an 8-cell embryo to the uterus, and the birth of a girl in 1978. The various types of new reproductive technology, however, have important ethical, legal, and social implications that are under constant discussion.

"IVF involves the following steps. Ovarian hyper-stimulation is achieved by hormonal administration, usually hMG to induce follicular growth and hCG to encourage ovulation, so that a number of ovarian follicles develop for retrieval of pre-ovulatory oocytes. Follicular development is monitored by biochemical procedures (serum estradiol level) and ultrasound (to determine follicular size and position). Pre-ovulatory follicles are aspirated through the abdominal wall (laparoscopy) by direct visualization of the ovaries, or through the vagina (transvaginal) or through the bladder (transvesical ultrasound-directed oocyte recovery). The aspirated follicular fluid is then examined for the presence of oocytes, which are cultured. Insemination by the addition of numerous spermatozoa in vitro may result in fertilization and early development of embryos. The embryos are then cultured and transferred (ET). This involves the placement by catheter of several 1- to 16-cell embryos or (preferably) blastocysts in the fundus of the uterus, where implantation may occur in a relatively small number of instances. A higher rate is obtained by transferring an embryo to a uterine tube (zygote intratubal transfer) rather than to the uterus, or (as an alternative to IVF) by transferring gametes to a uterine tube (gamete intratubal transfer) and allowing intratubal fertilization to occur."

Bruce Carlson, Human Embryology & Developmental Biology (St. Louis, MO: Mosby, 1999), 2nd ed., p. 35: "... The embryos are usually allowed to develop to the two- to eight-cell stage before they are considered ready to implant into the uterus."

Keith Moore and T.V.N. Persaud, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, 1998), 6th ed. only, p. 39: "Successful transfer of four- to eight-cell embryos and blastocysts to the uterus after thawing is now a common practice (Fugger et al., 1991) ... Embryos and blastocysts resulting from in vitro fertilization can be preserved for long periods by freezing them with a cryoprotectant (e.g., glycerol)." [Back]

7  Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola Muller, Human Embryology & Teratology (New York: Wiley-Liss, 1994, p. 23: " ... The embryo enters the uterine cavity after half a week, when probably at least 8-12 cells are present and when the endometrium is early in its secretory phase (which corresponds to the luteal phase of the ovarian cycle). Each cell (blastomere) is considered to be still totipotent (capable, on isolation, of forming a complete embryo), and separations of these early cells is believed to account for one-third of cases of monozygotic twinning."

Bruce Carlson, Human Embryology & Developmental Biology (St. Louis, MO: Mosby, 1999), 2nd ed., pp. 44-49: "Early mammalian embryogenesis is considered to be a highly regulative process. Regulation is the ability of an embryo or an organ primordium to produce a normal structure if parts have been removed or added. [Note at bottom of page: Opposed to regulative development is mosaic development, which is characterized by the inability to compensate for defects or to integrate extra cells into a unified whole. In a mosaic system, the fates of cells are rigidly determined, and removal of cells results in an embryo or a structure that is missing the components that the removed cells were destined to form. Most regulative systems have an increasing tendency to exhibit mosaic properties as development progresses]. At the cellular level, it means that the fates of cells in a regulative system are not irretrievably fixed and that the cells can still respond to environmental cues. Because the assignment of blastomeres into different cell lineages is one of the principal features of mammalian development, identifying the environmental factors that are involved is important.

"Of the experimental techniques used to demonstrate regulative properties of early embryos, the simplest is to separate the blastomeres of early cleavage-stage embryos and determine whether each one can give rise to an entire embryo. This method has been used to demonstrate that single blastomeres, from two- and sometimes four-cell embryos can form normal embryos, ....". (p. 44)

"Fate mapping experiments are important in embryology because they allow one to follow the pathways along which a particular cell can differentiate. Fate mapping experiments, which involve different isozymes of the enzyme glucose phosphate isomerase, have shown that all blastomeres of an eight-cell mouse embryo remain totipotent; that is, they retain the ability to form any cell type in the body. Even at the 16-cell stage of cleavage, some blastomeres are capable of producing progeny that are found in both the inner cell mass and the trophoblastic lineage. (p. 45)

"Another means of demonstrating the regulative properties of early mammalian embryos is to dissociate mouse embryos into separate blastomeres and then to combine the blastomeres of two or three embryos. The combined blastomeres soon aggregate and reorganize to become a single large embryo, which then goes on to become a normal-appearing tetraparental or hexaparental mouse. By various techniques of making chimeric embryos, it is even possible to combine blastomeres to produce interspecies chimeras (e.g., a sheep-goat). (p. 45)

... "The relationship between the position of the blastomeres and their ultimate developmental fate was incorporated into the inside-outside hypothesis. The outer blastomeres ultimately differentiate into the trophoblast, whereas the inner blastomeres form the inner cell mass, from which the body of the embryo arises. Although this hypothesis has been supported by a variety of experiments, the mechanisms by which the blastomeres recognize their positions and then differentiate accordingly have remained elusive and are still little understood. If marked blastomeres from disaggregated embryos are placed on the outside of another early embryo, they typically contribute to the formation of the trophoblast. Conversely, if the same marked cells are introduced into the interior of the host embryo, they participate in formation of the inner cell mass. Outer cells in the early mammalian embryo are linked by tight and gap junctions ... Experiments of this type demonstrate that the developmental potential or potency (the types of cells that a precursor cell can form) of many cells is greater than their normal developmental fate (the types of cells that a precursor cell normally forms)." (p. 45)

... " Classic strategies for investigating developmental properties of embryos are (1) removing a part and determining the way the remainder of the embryo compensates for the loss (such experiments are called deletion experiments) and (2) adding a part and determining the way the embryo integrates the added material into its overall body plan (such experiments are called addition experiments). Although some deletion experiments have been done, the strategy of addition experiments has proved to be most fruitful in elucidating mechanisms controlling mammalian embryogenesis. (p. 46)

"Blastomere removal and addition experiments have convincingly demonstrated the regulative nature (i.e., the strong tendency for the system to be restored to wholeness) of early mammalian embryos. Such knowledge is important in understanding the reason exposure of early human embryos to unfavorable environmental influences typically results in either death or a normal embryo. (p. 46)

"One of the most powerful experimental techniques of the last two decades has been the injection of genetically or artificially labeled cells into the blastocyst cavity of a host embryo. This technique has been used to show that the added cells become normally integrated into the body of the host embryo, additional evidence of embryonic regulation. An equally powerful use of this technique has been in the study of cell lineages in the early embryo. By identifying the progeny of the injected marked cells, investigators have been able to determine the potency (the range of cell and tissue types that an embryonic cell or group of cells is capable of producing) of the donor cells." (p. 46)

"Some types of twinning represent a natural experiment that demonstrates the highly regulative nature of early human embryos, ...". (p. 48)

"Monozygotic twins and some triplets, on the other hand, are the product of one fertilized egg. They arise by the subdivision and splitting of a single embryo. Although monozygotic twins could ... arise by the splitting of a two-cell embryo, it is commonly accepted that most arise by the subdivision of the inner cell mass in a blastocyst. Because the majority of monozygotic twins are perfectly normal, the early human embryo can obviously be subdivided and each component regulated to form a normal embryo." (p. 49)

William J. Larsen, Essentials of Human Embryology (New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1998), p. 325: [Monozygotic twinning] "If the splitting occurred during cleavage -- for example, if the two blastomeres produced by the first cleavage division become separated -- the monozygotic twin blastomeres will implant separately, like dizygotic twin blastomeres, and will not share fetal membranes. Alternatively, if the twins are formed by splitting of the inner cell mass within the blastocyst, they will occupy the same chorion but will be enclosed by separate amnions and will use separate placentae, each placenta developing around the connecting stalk of its respective embryo. Finally, if the twins are formed by splitting of a bilaminar germ disc, they will occupy the same amnion." (p. 325)

Geoffrey Sher, Virginia Davis, and Jean Stoess, In Vitro Fertilization: The A.R.T. of Making Babies (copyright 1998 by authors; information by contacting Facts On File, Inc., 11 Penn Plaza, New York, NY 10001), pp. 20: "(2) the fertilized egg, which has not yet divided, is now known as a zygote; (3) the egg begins to divide and is now known as an embryo; at this point each blastomere, or cell, within the embryo, is capable of developing into an identical embryo." [Back]

8 Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola MŸller, Human Embryology & Teratology (New York: Wiley-Liss, 1994), pp. 8-9: "The theory that successive stages of individual development (ontogeny) correspond with ('recapitulate') successive adult ancestors in the line of evolutionary descent (phylogeny) became popular in the 19th century as the so-called biogenetic law. This theory of recapitulation, however, has had a 'regrettable influence in the progress of embryology' (citing de Beer). ... Furthermore, during its development an animal departs more and more from the form of other animals. Indeed, the early stages in the development of an animal are not like the adult stages of other forms, but resemble only the early stages of those animals." [Back]

9 O'Rahilly and Muller, p. 55: "The ill-defined and inaccurate term 'pre-embryo,' which includes the embryonic disk, is said either to end with the appearance of the primitive streak or to include neurulation. The term is not used in this book." [Back]

10 The term "pre-embryo", or "pre-implantation embryo" (as used with the same "moral" meaning), roughly goes back to at least 1979 in the bioethics writings of Jesuit theologian Richard McCormick and amphibian embryologist Clifford Grobstein in their work with the Ethics Advisory Board to the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare (see, e.g., Ethics Advisory Board, 1979, Report and Conclusions: HEW Support of Research Involving Human In Vitro Fertilization and Embryo Transfer, Washington, D.C.: United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare, p. 101), and in the debates, testimonies and final report of the British Warnock Committee, 1984 (see, Dame Mary Warnock, Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilization and Embryology (London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1984), pp. 27, 63). The scientifically erroneous term "pre-embryo" was then picked up by literally hundreds of bioethics writers internationally, including, e.g., Australian writers Michael Lockwood, Michael Tooley, Alan TrounsonÑand especially by Peter Singer (a philosopher), Pascal Kasimba (a lawyer), Helga Kuhse (an ethicist), Stephen Buckle (a philosopher) and Karen Dawson (a geneticist, not a human embryologist). For a more in-depth discussion of the historical roots of and the erroneous science used to ground the "pre-embryo", and its illegitimate use to ground the philosophical construct of "delayed personhood", see: doctoral dissertation of Dianne N. Irving, Philosophical and Scientific Analysis of the Nature of the Early Human Embryo (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Graduate School, Doctoral Dissertation, Department of Philosophy, 1991); C. Ward Kischer and Dianne N. Irving (eds.), The Human Development Hoax: Time To Tell The Truth! (distributed by the American Life League, Stafford, VA, 1997) [this book is a collection of previously peer reviewed and published articles in academic journals written independently by both Dr. Kischer and by Dr. Irving]; D.N. Irving, "When do human beings begin? 'Scientific' myths and scientific facts", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 1999, 19:3/4:22-47; D.N. Irving, "The woman and the physician facing abortion: The role of correct science in the formation of conscience and the moral decision making process", Linacre Quarterly (Nov.-Dec. 2000). [Back]

11  William J. Larsen, Essentials of Human Embryology (New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1998), p. 4: "like all normal somatic (non-germ- cells), the primordial germ cells contain 23 pairs of chromosomes, or a total of 46."

Bruce Carlson, Human Embryology & Developmental Biology (St. Louis, MO: Mosby, 1999), p.2: "In a mitotic division, each germ cell produces two diploid progeny that are genetically equal."

Tom Strachan and Andrew Read, Human Molecular Genetics: Second Edition (New York: Wiley-Liss, 1999), p. 28"A subset of the diploid body cells constitute the germ line. These give rise to specialized diploid cells in the ovary and testis that can divide by meiosis to produce haploid gametes (sperm and egg). ... The other cells of the body, apart form the germline, are known as somatic cells ... most somatic cells are diploid ...".

Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola Muller, Human Embryology & Teratology (New York: Wiley-Liss, 1994), pp. 13-14: "Gametogenesis is the production of germ cells (gametes), i.e., spermatozoa and oocytes. These cells are produced in the gonads, i.e., the testes and ovaries respectively. The gametes are believed to arise by successive divisions from a distinct line of cells (the germ plasm), and the cells that are not directly concerned with gametogenesis are termed somatic. ... The reduction of chromosomal number from 46 (the diploid number) to 23 (the haploid number) is accomplished by a cellular division termed meiosis. ... Primordial germ cells ... are difficult to recognize in very young human embryos. Claims for them have been made as early as in the blastocyst, and they are believed to be segregated at latest by 2 weeks and possibly much earlier."

Keith Moore and T.V.N. Persaud, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, (Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders Company, 1998), 6th ed. only, p. 18: "Meiosis is a special type of cell division that involves two meiotic cell divisions; it takes place in germ cells only. Diploid germ cells give rise to haploid gametes (sperms and oocytes). [Back]

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