PRESIDENT CLINTON'S REQUEST RE: EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS
DR. COX: ... experimentation involved in combining early developmental cells from more than one animal suggests that these new fusions do not have this potential, hence are not embryos. At this time, however, there is insufficient data, insufficient scientific evidence to be able to say whether the fusion of the human cell and animal egg is an embryo in this sense. In our opinion, if this fusion does result in an embryo, important ethical concerns arise, as is the case with all research involving human embryos. These concerns are made more complex by the fact that (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Now, I do want to ask a question to the drafters of this particular part of this. The question is, is the fusion of a human cell, and the question I actually had, can an animal egg result in an embryo? And I want to know from one of you of those who drafted this if that was meant to say a human cell and a nonhuman egg as opposed to just an animal egg. Is that what was meant?
DR. GREIDER: What's the difference?
DR. SHAPIRO: Humans versus animals is the difference.
DR. COX: Humans are animals.
DR. SHAPIRO: Nonhuman was the intention.
DR. COX: The intent was nonhuman animal.
DR. SHAPIRO: Okay. And the result in an embryo, what was the intent? Embryo; human embryo?
DR. GREIDER: Human embryo.
DR. SHAPIRO: Okay, I just wanted...that's what I've got here. I just wanted to make sure I hadn't misread what you said. It then goes on to discuss some issues that I won't read out loud but that are essentially unchanged from what was worked out and deal with the case where--and I'll read the question--if the fusion of a human cell and an animal egg does not result in an embryo with the potential to develop into a child, what ethical or medical or scientific issues remain? It then goes on to discuss these matters, I think in a helpful way, and I should read one paragraph at least because I think it is important: "However, if neither an attempt to create children or the creation of an embryo is involved, we do not believe that totally new issues arise."
DR. CASSELL: Say that again?
DR. SHAPIRO: "However, if neither an attempt to create children"--which is the first condition....
DR. CASSELL: Right.
DR. SHAPIRO: "...or"--we're missing a verb here--"...the creation of an embryo..."--that is the second mission, which is already discussed--
DR. CASSELL: Right.
DR. SHAPIRO: ... so if those are eliminated, "we do not believe," it says here, "that totally new issues arise." Now it had been written as "we do not believe new issues arise." I just changed it slightly to say "totally new issues." Okay. And then it goes on, "We note that scientists routinely conduct noncontroversial research that involves combining materials from human and other species. This research has led to such useful therapies as..."--a lot of interesting examples--"... combining human cells but (UNINTELLIGIBLE) could possibly lead someday to methods to overcome transplant rejections," etc., etc., or to subject women to so on and so on, some examples of where this might lead. There then is a sentence that I do want, and that's really the substance of this. So what I am going to suggest is that I try to complete this letter today, using virtually unchanged what's here, but there might be some other kind of modest alterations. In view of the, I think, unfortunate impression left by the Times article, I in fact may bring up the issue of what we do not believe should be permitted up earlier in the letter just so that people who read the earlier parts see it, so they know that we do have these concerns. And I'm working on that now. I haven't quite got it done.
DR. DUMAS: Did I understand correctly from the discussion yesterday that it is not a preferable approach to mix a species in these types of studies, like human and nonhuman or human and (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
DR. SHAPIRO: I believe it's true, that David said at one point in the discussion, that those are the hardest experiments and we should do easier ones first.
DR. COX: I said the hardest experiments make it more difficult to interpret the results of the experiments.
DR. DUMAS: I think it's controversial whether scientists would say scientifically it's the best approach or not. I don't think that there would be consensus in that area.
DR. SHAPIRO: So, if that's all right with everyone, I will, if time will allow me to, fax you the letter when I send it to the President, and you'll just have to rely on my judgment. And I will not implicate anybody in the letter.
DR. MIIKE: Just one question, Harold. Are you going to make any reference to the second paragraph of the President's letter to us?
DR. SHAPIRO: Yes, yes. We will respond over the next months to the most important part of the letter, which is the second paragraph. Thank you, that's here. I just didn't mention it.
DR. BRITO: Harold, in reference to your first point, when we did the Cloning Report, one of our primary concerns was the safety issue. Is that what you're referring to in there? And then the fact that that in itself is an ethical issue, and that we can't even begin to approach the potential ethical issues until we deal with that? Is that the way?
DR. SHAPIRO: Yes, but I did not go into detail on that. I have to keep this letter modestly short.
DR. BRITO: No, no, I understand that, but what, when you were--okay.
DR. COX: I am not trying to raise or create new policies here. I really applaud your efforts to have this done very rapidly now because, again, of this unfortunate newspaper article, which gives in my view a very distorted view of what the discussion was yesterday, to have the actual statement in a letter to the President rapidly is very important.
DR. SHAPIRO: All right, Tom?
DR. MURRAY: I want to say for the record that having read this report by Nicholas Wade, who is a reporter for whom I have considerable respect, I think it is a terrible misrepresentation of the concern that many of us have, myself personally included.