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November 5, 1993     The Message
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November 5, 1993
 

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2 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana Experiments on embryos no medical breakthrough, geneticist says By NANCY FRAZIER O'BRIEN Catholic News Service WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Recent steps toward the artifi- cial creation of human twins represent "not a breakthrough of science but a breakdown of common sense," according to an internationally known ge- neticist. Dr. Jerome Lejeune, the French scientist who first iden- tified the gene that causes Down's syndrome, said in an Oct. 29 interview with Catholic News Service that the experi- ments at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington should not prop- erly be termed the "cloning" of human embryos. Scientists in the university's in vitro fertilization program recently reported that they had successfully split single human embryos into twins or triplets. All of the embryos died within six days. To call such results "cloning" is an "abuse of words," Lejeune said. "Cloning is used when you reproduce beings bypass- ing the sexual reproduction system." But the Washington scien- tists "started with fertilized eggs" and were able to produce artificial twins or triplets from the eggs. Such results already have been achieved in goats, cows and sheep and are "no novelty" in science, Lejeune said. But many animal scientists have stopped experiments in artificial twinning because "the amount of failure is too high to consider that it would increase i i Main Street Pharmacy 217 E. Main St. (wntown Wasi'ington Phone: 254-5141 the yield," he said. Although the George Wash- ington researchers said their efforts were aimed at increas- ing the chances that an infer- tile woman could give birth, Lejeune said the likely death of many embryos in the process makes it "perfectly wrong." "I honestly cannot see how this argument has been put forward," he said. Even if artificial twinning could take place without one death of an embryo, it would still be subject to tremendous abuses, Lejeune said. One much ballyhooed possi- bility would be for twins to be created in the lab, with one im- planted in the womb and the other "put in the fridge" for fu- ture use, the French scientist said. If the first twin were to get sick and need a transplant the second twin could be implanted in a donor and grown as a "stock of spare pieces," he added. In addition to the fact that he believes such a process would not work scientifically, "it's a totally inhumane way of thinking about your brother," Lejeune said. He said he thought noted British geneticist J.B.S. Hal- dane was "extremely wise" when he said 30 years ago that he "could not find a name in history, male or female, that should have been reproduced to the benefit of mankind." According to Lejeune, Hal- dane said that if, for example, a few hundred Albert Einsteins had been cloned, with every noted university being able to i = LinCo Coffee Services Total Beverage Distributor Indiana - Illinois - Kentucky 46 Varieties of Coffees and Teas WHATEVER YOUR TASTE. I WE CAN MATCH IT Washington 2544409 Evansville 422-1833 have one on its physics faculty, the result would be "a little blossoming of that science" but eventual sterilization of ideas in that area. Although twins and other multiple births do occur natu- rally in some cases, "I think nature has been very astute to generally reproduce us one by one," Lejeune said. A member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences since 1974, Lejeune was in Washing- ton for a series of lectures on "Human Nature and Scientific Knowledge." The Oct. 26-29 lecture series at Washington's Providence Hospital was sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the John Paul II Institute for Stud- ies on Marriage and Family. Asked in the interview whether there was a simple rule that scientists could use to decide whether certain re- search would benefit society, he said there is "one guideline, 9 : - ) -  c, II I I II I I I III MILLER & MILLER "Funeral Pro-Planning Since 1940" 424-9274 Member Holy Trinity Pro-Cathedral II I I I ninerce Ilenlly & hmlrai,ce, I,:c. COMPLETE INSURANCE PROTECTION 301 N. WEINBACH AVENUE EVANSVILLE, INDIANA 47711 (812) 479-0899 COMMERCIAL, AUTO & LIFE Patrick Mulherin Account Executive Office: (812) 479-0899 I Campus Ministry speaker Jesuit Father John Coleman was the featured the sixth annual John Henry Newman lecture and the Idea of the University." Father Coleman tm fessor of religion and society at the Jesuit School ology in Berkeley, Calif. The Newman Lecture iJ sored by Campus Ministry at the University of Indiana. to00u,00e everything." ///"l.t I V 1 "And that is: "What you have done to the smallest of mine, you have done it to me,--" he said. 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