By Michael Baggot

SAN FRANCISCO, CA March 14, 2008 ( – Human cloning practitioner, Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), Inc. announced a clinical trial agreement with Chandler Regional Medical Center and Mercy Gilbert Medical Center, members of Catholic Healthcare West (CHW), on Wednesday.  The groups plan to join in clinical trials of adult stem cell techniques for the treatment of heart disease. 

“The agreement with CHW signifies our readiness to begin the Phase II clinical trial,” said William M. Caldwell, IV, chairman and CEO of ACT. “We are excited to begin the trial, which has the potential to be a major advance for the field of regenerative medicine and, more importantly, to patients in need of care. We look forward to working with such a prominent healthcare group.”

The agreement raises ethical questions, however, since the ACT has previously promoted research that contradicts Catholic principles regarding respect for the rights of the human embryo. 

In 2005, ACT began using the blastomere separation method, in which a cell from an embryo is removed and cultured separately.  The method had previously been used in in vitro fertilization facilities.  Cells from the embryo are used because of their “totipotency,” or ability to produce any other tissue in the body, and even a twin embryo. 

The method has significant potential of harming the embryo from which a cell is taken.

Since the embryo does not consent to being subject to the blastomere separation method and does not directly benefit from the procedure, ACT stands in violation of the Nuremburg Code and other international law that protects individuals from risky experimentation, noted Dr. John Shea, medical advisor to Canada’s Campaign Life Coalition.

Embryos created during blastomere separation method are also robbed of their “fundamental right to be conceived naturally by two parents within marriage,” added Shea.

In 2001, ACT rejoiced in producing human clones. The group looked forward to extracting from these embryos the stem cells capable of producing the tissues needed for various medical treatments. 

ACT’s cloning received immediate condemnation from pro-life voices.  “Once begun, human lives-including human lives begun by cloning-should be protected, not killed to provide biological raw material,” said National Right to Life Committee Legislative Director Douglas Johnson.

Scientific authorities agree that the embryo is the first stage of a distinct human being’s life.  “It is the penetration of the ovum by a spermtozoan and the resultant mingling of the nuclear material each brings to the union that constitutes the culmination of the process of fertilization and marks the initiation of the life of a new individual,” states Dr. Bradley M. Patten’s secular textbook Human Embryology.

Describing the zygote, Dr. Keith L. Moore’s secular text, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology states, “The cell results from fertilization and of an oocyte by a sperm and is the beginning of a human being.”

“The beginning of a single human life is from a biological point of view a simple and straightforward matter-the beginning is conception,” Dr. Watson A. Bowes of the University of Colorado Medical School told a 1981 US Senate judiciary subcommittee.

“This straightforward biological fact should not be distorted to serve sociological, political, or economic goals,” he added. 

As Shea observed, only when the embryo is acknowledged as a human being can it be accorded the full set of human rights that would forbid its manipulation through blastomere separation and other examinations.

Contact Catholic Healthcare West about their union with Advanced Cell Technology:
  Catholic Healthcare West
  185 Berry Street, Suite 300
  San Francisco, CA 94107
  (415) 438-5500

Contact San Francisco’s Bishop about CHW’s union with ACT:
  Archbishop George H. Niederauer, D.D, Ph.D
  The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco
  One Peter Yorke Way
  San Francisco, CA 94109
  (415) 614-5500
[email protected]

See Related LifeSiteNews Coverage:

“Embryo-Friendly” Stem Cell Technique Defended with Bogus Ethics

“New Ethical” Embryonic Stem Cells Not New and Not Ethical

Read an extensive treatment of the questions that shape bioethical debates: