Letter to John A. Hurson, Chairman, MD House Health and Government Operations Committees

Date: 03/12/2003

March 12, 2003

Dear Mr. Chairman:

We write to express our grave concern about legislation currently pending in Maryland (House Bill 482).   It is designed to authorize human cloning (“somatic cell nuclear transplantation”) and the harvesting and use of body parts taken from human clones in the embryonic and fetal stages of development.  This legislation, if enacted, threatens to make Maryland a haven for unethical medical practices, including the macabre practice of human fetal farming.

The pending legislation expressly authorizes the harvesting and use of human embryonic stem cells, human embryonic germ cells (generally harvested around the 8th week of fetal development), and even human adult stem cells that originate from the human cloning method known as somatic cell nuclear transplantation.  Thus the bill contemplates the creation of new human beings by cloning and, perhaps unintentionally, their cultivation from the zygote stage through the newborn stage for the purpose of harvesting what the legislation itself refers to as “cadaveric” fetal tissue.

Please pause to consider whose cadaver the tissue is to be derived from.   It is the cadaver of a distinct member of the species Homo sapiens—a human being—who would be brought into being by cloning and, presumably, implanted and permitted to develop to the desired stage of physical maturation for the purpose of being killed for the harvesting of his or her tissues.

Although the legislation purports to ban trafficking in fetal body parts for “valuable consideration,” it expressly permits “reasonable payment” for “removal, processing, disposal, preservation, quality control, storage, transplantation, or implantation” of these body parts.  This is a virtual invitation to cloning entrepreneurs to conduct in the State of Maryland what would amount to fetal farming for research, presumably including experimental treatments.  There seems to be nothing in the legislation to prevent cloning entrepreneurs from paying women a “reasonable” fee to gestate embryos and submit to abortions for the production of human bodily tissues and organs.  The entrepreneurs could then charge a “reasonable” fee to their customers for “processing,” “preserving,” “storing,” “transplanting,” or “implanting” fetal cadavers and tissues.

And what if a gestating woman has second thoughts and decides not to abort the developing fetus?  Would a court be asked to enforce a contract for abortion?  We hope and trust that no court would do that.  But then we would have what the sponsors of the legislation surely would not want to facilitate:  the birth of human clones.

We understand, and deeply share, your desire and the desire of the sponsors of this legislation to promote biomedical advances, cure dreaded diseases, and ease human suffering.  We hope that Maryland will be at the forefront of exciting research involving stem cells derived without harming living human beings at any stage of development.  The approach marked out in HB 482, however, is not an ethically sound way to go.  On the contrary, it constitutes the moral madness of killing in the cause of healing—with a possible profit motive that would encourage the grisly practice.

Under separate cover, we are sending a copy of Human Cloning and Human Dignity, the Report of the President’s Council on Bioethics, chaired by Dr. Leon Kass, on which we have the honor to serve.  The Report recommends (unanimously) a ban on cloning for the purpose of baby-making and (by a vote of 10-7) a four year moratorium on cloning for biomedical research.  Please note that though seven of the seventeen members of the Council support cloning for biomedical research (subject to strict federal regulations), none indicated support for the implantation and gestation of cloned embryos for the purpose of harvesting cadaveric fetal tissues or organs, not to mention maintaining cloned humans to the point at which adult stem cells could be harvested.

Yours sincerely,

Robert P. George, J.D., D.Phil.                          Mary Ann Glendon, J.D., LL.M
Princeton University                                            Harvard University

Alfonso Gomez-Lobo, D.Phil.                            William Hurlbut, M.D.
Georgetown University                                        Stanford University

Gilbert Meilaender, Ph.D.
Valparaiso University