William Hurlbut's proposal to produce biologically and morally healthy embryonic stem cells by a procedure he calls "altered nuclear transfer" (ANT) is highly questionable (While We're At It, March).
Biologically, it seems unlikely that one could produce healthy human cells from a growth precisely programmed not to be a human embryo. If the initial biological material is altered to make it impossible to become human, which is the humanizing life-principle in a human conception, what guarantee is there that we have a stable and healthy human growth from which the cells would be derived? If the proposal is not to alter the biological material to the point that we have to question the healthy humanness of the cells, who is to guarantee that the source material is not at least a deformed human embryo or even perhaps a perfectly healthy human embryo whose ability to implant has been destroyed?
The key reality is human conception. If we have done something to the elements involved in the ANT procedure to guarantee that there is no human conception, then there is no guarantee or even likelihood that the cells derived from the growth will be of any value. If we do something less that makes it possible or likely that a human conception would occur (that a human embryo with its spiritual life principle would come into existence), we have cloned a human embryo, which is absolutely prohibited morally.
The Rev. Lawrence A. Kutz
William Hurlbut of the President's Council on Bioethics is to be commended for his untiring efforts supporting scientific progress through ethical stem-cell research. While...