An epoch-making trial took place in Blount County, Tennessee in August
of 1989. Judge W. Dale Young of the Blount County Circuit Court was called upon
to decide a case of first impression in the world. He presided over a domestic
relations case in which a husband had sued his wife for divorce and at the same
time had sought and obtained a temporary injunction preventing her from
implanting frozen embryos conceived by them in an in vitro fertilization
procedure undertaken earlier in the year. He said he did not want to be a
father against his will. She said he already was a father. He had told her
privately that if he got possession of the embryos he would destroy them. She
told the judge publicly that if the embryos could not be given to her for
implantation, she wished that they be given anonymously to another woman who
could not conceive so that their preborn children might live.
Upon reading of the case for the first time in the Sunday paper of
August 6th, I telephoned Jay Christenberry, Mary's attorney, in Knoxville,
Tennessee, and told him that the one man in the world who could help him as an
expert witness was Dr. Jerome Lejeune, our current world father of genetics.
Upon speaking with Dr. Lejeune on trans-Atlantic telephone and telling him of
Mary's desire that the children go to another woman if she could not have them,
he commented: "This is incredible. This is the judgment of Solomon. I did not
think it could reoccur again in human history. It is reoccuring." He agreed to
fly to the United States to testify in this little Tennessee courtroom to help
Mary of Maryville, Tennessee, and her preborn children.
A rare moment took place in that little Tennessee courtroom as Dr.
Lejeune took the stand and his testimony began to unfold. At the conclusion of
his testimony, secretaries from the judge's chambers, who heard his testimony
only over the loudspeaker, flocked around him with the rest of the throng in
the hallway to exclaim that he had painted a true "symphony of life."
You, the reader, and the nation, have it in hand. A new chapter is
about to unfold as a grand new moral essay exam is presented to our Republic at
this time in our nation's history.
James Russell Lowell said it best:
"Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, In the
strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side."
Judge Young has fired a shot, based upon science, that will be heard
around the world. It is now up to the nation.
You hold in your hands history.
All agree that Dr. Lejeune is to the world of genetics as Einstein was
to the world of physics. His testimony in the Davis case (Blount County,
Tennessee, August 10, 1989) is to the deliberations of our state legislators,
courts and U.S. Supreme Court as the letter that Albert Einstein wrote to
President Roosevelt regarding a new discovery on the splitting of the atom was
to the future of energy. This testimony of Dr. Lejeune has figuratively split
the atom of the humanity of the preborn child, and in so doing has released the
tremendous energy of truth, which is circling the globe.
Just as man was given new respect for the atom, so man is now humbled
in awe before the startling revelations of the very beginnings of preborn
life-a human conceptus of a three-cell stage, which would fit on the tip of a
needle and yet contains more information, perfectly organized, than would fit
in one million NASA computers and which is differentiated as the constitution
of this exact new human being immediately following fertilization-all
information necessary to completely build himself, even the marvel of the human
brain, capable of going to the moon, putting foot on the moon, or capable of
building an NASA computer.
Dr. Lejeune's testimony is purely science, but it is science telling
man a love story, for just as the splitting of the atom releases incredible
energy and light, so man's splitting of the kernel of truth of the early
beginnings of his own life has released a trillion-fold amount of energy and
light and illuminated the source of that light, which is the real energy source
of the entire universe: LOVE. The greatest force of the universe is and always
will be LOVE.
Man having seen the light must respond in human love. All law
disavowing the equal humanity of preborn children must change. The period of
medieval darkness is forever over.
MARTIN PALMER, Esq. October 1989.
In the circuit court for Blount county state of Tennessee
at Maryville, Tennessee
JUNIOR L. DAVIS, Plaintiff,
vs. No. E-14496
MARY SUE DAVIS, Defendant.
Transcript of excerpt of proceedings as had upon the trial of the
above-styled cause before the Honorable William Dale Young, on the 10th day of
Reported by: PEGGY M. GILES, C.C.R. KNOXVILLE COURT REPORTING P.O. Box
9112 Knoxville, Tennessee 37940 615-573-9300
APPEARANCES: FOR THE PLAINTIFF: Charles Clifford Attorney at Law 117
E. Broadway Maryville, Tennessee
FOR THE DEFENDANT: J. G. Christenberry Attorney at Law 9th Floor 603
Main Avenue Knoxville, Tennessee
THE COURT: For the record, ladies and gentlemen, let the record
reflect that prior to these proceedings being placed of record, that the
Honorable Martin Palmer, a member of the Maryland Bar, had been introduced to
the Court and welcomed, and that Dr. Lejeune, a witness in this case, had been
given the oath to testify. Is there any need, gentlemen, to readminister the
oath for the record?
MR. CLIFFORD: No, your Honor. MR. CHRISTENBERRY: No, your Honor. THE
COURT: You may proceed.
The Witness, JEROME LEJEUNE, M.D., having been first duly sworn,
testified upon his oath as follows:
Direct examination by Mr. Christenberry:
Q. Would you state your name for the record, please, sir?
A. My name is Jerome Lejeune.
Q. And to help the court reporter if she doesn't understand the
French pronounciation you spell your name, J-E-R-0-M-E, capital L, little e,
little j, E-U-N-E?
Q. Thank you. Dr. Lejeune, from your accent, I take it that you live
elsewhere than East Tennessee?
A. Well, born on the river of the Seine, you know.
Q. And that is probably situated in another country, I hope?
A. It's a little country called France, and the little town is
Q. Thank you. Doctor. I guess you're a French citizen?
A. I'm French citizen, Parisian born.
Q. And you've traveled to this country, to Maryville Tennessee, to
offer what you have as a witness in this trial?
Q. Okay. Tell us. Doctor, What you do, what your profession is.
A. I am a M.D., that is Doctor in medicine, I'm also a Ph.D., Doctor
in science, and after getting my degree in the University of Paris in medicine
and also in genetics in the Sorbonne, Faculty of Science, I was research worker
for ten years, and then I was appointed professor of fundamental genetics in
the Faculty of Medicine of Paris. My special field is children, all the
constitutional diseases of children, and more especially mental
Q. Okay. Doctor, you practiced medicine, I take it, as maybe a
A. Well, I started as a pediatrician, but I specialized in genetics,
and we have the biggest consultation of the world in I'Hospital des Enfants
Malades, Sick Children Hospital in Paris. We have the biggest consultation of
the world for children with mental retardation due to congenital diseases due
to chromosomal mistakes.
Q. Have you been an educator as a result of your background? Have
you been a teacher?
A. Well, I have been professor of fundamental genetics now for
twenty years, but I began - my first teaching was not in France, it was in
America. I was invited by Professor Beadle in Caltech, California Institute of
Technology. It was just before I discovered the first diseases of man - first
chromosomal diseases in man, but I was already involved in medical genetics,
and Beadle invited me to give the first course of human genetics in Caltech.
That was long ago. At that time my English was even rougher than it is today,
and I came with all my course written in French. In the evening I was
translating them with the dictionary, and in the morning I was delivering the
course to the students. They were very kind, they helped me very greatly. That
is the way I have learned to speak English, and I hope the way they have
learned a little about human genetics.
Q. You remember the year that you went to Caltech?
A. Well, it was in '58.
Q. Did you remain there for some time as a professor?
A. I was a visiting professor from the OTAN, professorship from the
OTAN; NATO, you say NATO, excuse me.
Q. You have been accredited with helping in human genetics with
identification of some chromosome; will you tell us what that is about?
A. It happens that I discovered the first disease due to a
chromosomal mistake in man which is Down's Syndrome which was called previously
Mongolism because these children have a special odd look which is a little
remembering for European some type of the Mongol features. But in Mongolia they
don't like to call the disease Mongolism, they call it European Imbecility.
I discovered that they had one chromosome too much. That was long
ago, thirty-two years, if I calculate well, and for that discovery I received
the Kennedy Prize from the late president here in United States. And also for
that discovery, I got William Alien Memorial Award which is the highest award
that you can get in genetics in the world. It's given also in United
Q. I see. Have you followed with your genetic discovery even as you
sit here today? Have you continued to study?
A. Oh, yes.
Q. Could you probably give us an enlightenment on what's happened
over thirty-two years?
A. Well, I want not to speak too much about myself, it's not the
subject. But we have discovered ten different diseases due to chromosomal
errors, and I would say the first chapters of this enormous pathology was
written in French by us. Now, we are dealing with mechanisms of mental
retardation due to chromosomal diseases, and we are beginning to understand why
having one chromosome too much, that is, normal information but repeated, makes
a nuisance for the development of the intellect. And, for example, very
recently we demonstrated that in trisomy twenty-one. Down's Syndrome,
previously called Mongolism, the cells of the children are more sensitive to
some drugs which are used against cancer. It seems totally unrelated, but, in
fact, it's defining a new field of research, because very likely this
peculiarity is related to a deficiency in a chemical system which is used
especially in our neuron, and it's probably one of the main reasons why they do
not develop a normal intelligence. So, for the moment, you asked me what we are
doing now: We are working on this particular hypothesis because it allows us to
make experiments on cells, taken from the children, we cultivate, and we can
manipulate, we deprive them, we follow them and we play with them, and we use a
lot of drugs to see how they react, and that is the first time we can make
experiment in human cells so that to try to cure a neuronal disease, a nervous
disease, so it's a very exciting field, but the job is not yet finished.
Q. I trust you can do all that without harming the children?
A. Oh, well, you just take a few drops of blood, and you cultivate
the cells, make cultures. We play with the cell; we do not play with the
Q. Thank you. Doctor. I understand you're on the boards of various
academies in this world. Could you tell us about that?
A. I have the honor of being a member of the American Academy of
Arts and Science, I'm member of the Royal Society of Medicine in London, Royal
Society of Science in Stockholm, of the Science Academy in Italy, in Argentina.
I'm a member of the Pontifical Academy of Science, and I'm a member in Paris in
the Institut de France of the Academic des Sciences Morales et Politiques, that
is, of Moral and Political Sciences, a special academy in France; and also the
Academy of Medicine in France.
Q. The Academy that deals with moral and political sciences -
Q. Tell us what that academy's function is about, doctor.
A. That academy was made around two hundred years ago to give advice
to the government about moral and political questions, and essentially to give
advice to the government about the use of new techniques, considering that the
respect of man is one of the bases of our constitution. We have five academies
in the Institute de France, it's one of them.
Q. And then you mentioned another that gave me some interest. You
said the Pontifical Academy, where is that academy located?
A. The Pontifical Academy of Science is located inside the gardens
of the Vatican, a very nice location. We are seventy members and no more than
seven of any country, so that we're coming from all the world around. Our
percentage of Nobel Prize is more than sixty percent. There is no difficulty
because we choose the members in the whole earth, and so it's not difficult to
choose good ones. The interest is many of them have been selected by another
committee long after they had been elected by our academy. I would say it's the
only scientific international academy of science, the only one which is truly
Q. How long have you been on that academy?
A. Twelve years if I remember well, something like that.
Q. Tell us a little bit about the topics or research that is done
there. What have you all considered?
A. In the academy?
Q. Yes, sir.
A. Well, for example, we are given the question: What is danger of
the use of atomic energy? For example, we had four sessions about the danger of
atomic weapons and their numbers, the use of them, the possibility of survival
of humanity after an atomic war and how medicine could do something. And when
we did the report, the Holy Fathers asked the academy to designate members to
produce that report to the powers who head the atomic power. It was sent to-in
Moscow, to the late Mr. Brezhnev. This was a very interesting interview during
one hour discussing with Mr. Brezhnev in the Kremlin about the danger that
humanity would feel if there was an atomic exchange.
Q. Did you find that interview interesting to say the least with Mr.
A. I'm not a diplomat, I'm just a scientist, and it was very
interesting for me, at least.
Q. I understand that in this country, you're familiar with our man
that is in charge of our health and welfare of all the citizens of this
A. C. Everett Koop, yes, we are good friends. I know him since
Q. How long have you known him now?
A. I'm not good at counting the number of years, I know people-maybe
fifteen years, something of that kind.
Q. Do you visit with him and speak with him?
Q. Does he call your bureau or your agency or your scientific-on the
phone in Paris?
A. No, we have discussions when we meet together. We don't use phone
for very important matter. It's better to have a chat.
Q. What are his interests in you? In other words, what areas have
you all chatted about?
A. Human genetics, which is my field.
MR. CHRISTENBERRY: I believe at this time, your Honor, I would ask
the Court to recognize Dr. Lejeune as an expert witness in the field in which
he's here to testify.
THE COURT: Any objection?
MR. CLIFFORD: Your Honor, we certainly recognize Dr. Lejeune's
expertise in the field of genetics.
THE COURT: All right, he's qualified.
MR. CHRISTENBERRY: Thank you, your Honor. BY MR. CHRISTENBERRY:
Q. Dr. Lejeune, as you sit here today, it's fair to say you have
come quite a distance, is it not, sir?
Q. It's fair to say you have come quite a distance to testify today,
is it not?
A. Well, it's not that far, you know. I have been farther than
Q. You're familiar with the issues, the profound issues this Court
is considering, aren't you. Doctor?
A. Yeah, and that is the reason why I accepted to come.
Q. Thank you. With respect to the issues in this case, you
understand the-what we would say is the factual understanding of how Mr. Davis
feels and how Mrs. Davis feels. There has been some publicity about this, has
there not. Doctor? You have heard something about their dilemma?
A. I heard something, but very little. I must be very honest, I
don't look at television, I don't listen to the radio, and I only knew when Mr.
Palmer telephoned to me, that was the first time I heard about it. So I would
not say I'm really knowing the whereabouts, no. I know there are babies, there
are human beings in the fridge, this is the only thing I know.
Q. Thank you. Doctor. So let's start with that aspect of this case.
You're familiar with in vitro fertilization?
Q. When did you write your first article about it, if you
A. Oh, you are terrible with dates; I'm not good with the answers.
It must be fifteen years ago, something.
A. Before it was used.
Q. Before it was used. So before it was used it had been conceived
in man's mind, had it not?
A. Well, you have to understand that artificial fertilization is
something rather old in biology, and it was used for animals long before it was
applied to man. And what seems today extraordinary, that is freezing a human
embryo, it was not extraordinary for a cow. There is a lot of time that cows
have been frozen and used and sent by air mail in little containers. And the
novelty is to consider that the technique which was devised for husbandry was
good enough for mankind.
Q. Tell us about in vitro fertilization and your view of it and your
perspective that you could offer today.
A. Well, could I speak more about nature-
A. -of the human being, than specifically the condition in vitro,
because to understand what means the fertilization in vitro, we have to
understand what means fertilization at the beginning of a human being.
Q. All right.
A. And if I can say so, I would say that life has a very long
history, but each of us has a unique beginning, the moment of conception. We
know and all the genetics and all the zoology are there to tell us that there
is a link between the parents and the children. And this link is made of a long
molecule that we can dissect the DNA molecule which is transmitting information
from parents to children through generations and generations. As soon as the
program is written on the DNA, there are twenty-three different pieces of
program carried by the spermatazoa and there are twenty-three different
homologous pieces carried by the ovum. As soon as the twenty-three chromosomes
carried by the sperm encounter the twenty-three chromosomes carried by the
ovum, the whole information necessary and sufficient to spell out all the
characteristics of the new being is gathered.
Q. Is what, sir?
A. Gathered. And it's very interesting, if I can say, your Honor, to
remark that natural sciences and science of the law, in fact, speak the same
language. In that sense that when we see somebody healthy, well built, we say
he has a robust constitution, and when we see a country in which every subject
is protected by the law, we say it has an equitable constitution. In the
phenomenon of the writing a law, you have to spell out every term of the law
before it can be considered to be a law, I mean in the science of the law. And
secondarily, this information written in the law has to be enacted, and it
cannot be before it has been voted for.
Now, life does exactly the same thing. Inside the chromosomes is
written the program and all the definitions. In fact, chromosomes are, so to
speak, the table of the law of life. If you get the right number of your table
of the law of your life, then you begin your own life. Now, the voting process
does exist as well. It is the fertilization itself, because there are a lot of
proposals, many, many sperms. Only one got in; that is the voting process which
enact the new constitution of a man. And exactly as would say a lawyer, once a
constitution exists in a country, you can speak about it in the same way, when
this information carried by the sperm and by the ovum has encountered each
other, then a new human being is defined because its own personal and human
constitution is entirely spelled out.
There exists a lot of minute differences in the message given by
father and the one given by mother, even by the same person; we do not give
exactly the same minute information in each sperm or in each egg. It follows
that the voting process of the fertilization produces a personal constitution
which is entirely typical of this very one human being which has never occurred
before and will never occur again. It's an entire novelty. That was sure-that
was known for let's say not a hundred years but more than fifty years. But the
bewildering was the minuteness of the writing of those tables of the law.
You have to figure out what is a DNA molecule. I would say it's a
long thread of one meter (sic) of length, cut in twenty-three pieces. Each
piece is coiled on itself very tightly to make spiral of spiral of spiral so
that finally it looks like a little rod that we can see under the microscope
that we call a chromosome. And there are twenty-three of them carried by
father, twenty-three of them carried by mother. I said the minuteness of the
language is bewildering because if I was bringing here in the Court all the one
meter long DNA of the sperms and all the meter long of the ovums which will
make every one of the five billions of human beings that will replace ourselves
in this planet, this amount of matter would be roughly two aspirin tablets.
That tells us that nature to carry the information from father to children,
from mother to children, from generation to generation has used the smallest
possible language. And it is very necessary because life is taking advantage of
the movement of the particles, of molecules, to put order inside the chance
development of random movement of particles, so that chance is now transformed
according to the necessity of the new being.
All the information being written they have to be written in the
smallest language possible so that they can dictate how to manipulate particle
by particle, atom by atom, molecule by molecule. We have to be with life at the
real cross between matter, energy and information.
Now, I would like, your Honor, to give you an impression of what
happens normally. Most of the human beings have been conceived before the
fertilization in vitro was used, and most of the humanity will still be made
the old good days' fashion for a long time I do hope. Normally, when the ovum
is ripe, that is, once a month, fifteen days after the menses, there is a
rupture of the follicle, and the ovum is so to speak taken by the fallopian
tube, which has a special expansion-we call it le pavillon-I don't know the
name in English. And it can move, and if you take a picture it looks like as a
hand making a slow palpation of the ovary to find where the egg will be laid
and to take it.
Normally, the egg is a big cell, round, not mobile, floating quietly
inside the fluid in the tube, and the tube will manage to carry this big cell
towards the uterus by ciliate movements. On the contrary, the sperm is an
indefatigable navigator. It has been deposited in the entry of the genitalia of
the mother, and normally it goes up through the cervix of the uterus, he swims
during the whole uterine cavity, and it is inside the fallopian tube that the
encounter between few thousands, ten thousands, hundred thousands of sperm and
the one egg can occur. And it is because every human being has been conceived
in nature inside the little tube, a tube of flesh that we call the fallopian
tube, that test tube babies are indeed possible. The only difference is that
sperm and egg are meeting inside a tube which is now a tube of glass because
the egg has been removed from the body of the woman, and the sperm has been
just added to the little vessel. And it's because normal fecundation-I should
say fertilization in English-normal fertilization is occurring inside a tube
that if you put the proper medium ... It is not at all the inseminator who
makes fertilization, he just puts on the right medium, a ripe ovum, active
sperm, and it is the sperm who made the fertilization. Man would be unable to
make a fertilization. It has to be done directly by the cells. And it's because
they were normally floating in the fluid that this extracorporeal technique is
at all possible.
Now, the reproduction process is a very impressive phenomenon in the
sense that what is reproduced is never the matter, but it is information. For
example, when you want to reproduce a statue, you can make a mold and there
will be an exact contiguity between the atoms of the original statue and the
atoms of the mold. During the molding process there will be again between the
plaster and the mold contact atom by atom so that you reproduce the statue. But
what is reproduced is not the original because you can make it out of plaster,
out of bronze, about anything. What is reproduced is the form that the genius
of the sculptor had imprinted in the matter. The same thing is true for any
reproduction whether it is by radio, by television, by photography, what is
printed or reproduced is the information and not the matter. The matter is a
support of the information. And that explain to us how life is at all possible,
because it would be impossible to reproduce matter. Matter is not living,
matter cannot live at all. Matter is matter. What is reproduced and
transmitted, it's an information which will animate matter. Then there is
nothing like living matter, what exist is animated matter. And what we learn in
genetics is to know what does animate the matter, to force the matter to take
the form of a human being.
To give you an idea, I would take a very simple example, I would
take the example of this little apparatus here, a recorder.
Q. Yes, sir.
A. Now, chromosomes are a long thread of DNA in which information is
written. They are coiled very tightly on the chromosomes, and, in fact, a
chromosome is very comparable to a mini-cassette, in which a symphony is
written, the symphony of life. Now, exactly as if you go and buy a cartridge on
which the Kleine Nachtmusik from Mozart has been registered, if you put it in a
normal recorder, the musician would not be reproduced, the notes of music will
not be reproduced, they are not there; what would be reproduced is the movement
of air which transmits to you the genius of Mozart. It's exactly the same way
that life is played. On the tiny minicassettes which are our chromosomes are
written various parts of the opus which is for human symphony, and as soon as
all the information necessary and sufficient to spell out the whole symphony,
this symphony plays itself, that is, a new man is beginning his career.
In vitro fertilization does not change at all what I have said. It's
just a technique sometime used to bypass a difficulty in the encounter of the
egg and the sperm, so it's a-it's a derivation. It does not change at all the
basic mechanism, the basic mechanism is just the same.
Now, if I could continue a little more, it's not about fertilization
that we are discussing. It's about freezing of embryos. I'm not a specialist at
freezing embryos. Your Honor, I have never played with embryos. But in my
laboratory we are freezing cells, we are thawing them, we are using a lot of
those process, so we know about it, we use it on another system than embryos,
but all cells are very similar in their reactions. Now, you have to realize-I
don't know if it is true in English, but I think it's quite true, and it is
true at least in all the Latin language, we use the same word to define the
tempo that we measure with a clock and the temperature that we measure with a
thermometer. We say in French temps and temperature; in English you say time
which is a change of tempo, which a temporal thing, and temperature. And that
is not a mistake of the ordinary language; it's a definition of the basic
phenomenon. I don't know how they have recognized it so long ago to build it
into the language. What means "time" is the flux of the agitation of the
molecule, the flux of the particle which is continually going on. And
temperature is just a measure of the speed with which the molecules are running
in a given medium.
Now, if you diminish progressively temperature, you diminish the
speed and the number of collisions between the molecules, and so to speak
without any joke about the words, you are progressively slowing down, slowing
down the temperature, you are freezing time. And, in fact, we are wrong telling
that we are freezing embryos. In a sense it's very true like you deep freeze
the meat in the supermarket, very correct. But in the fundamental sense what we
are doing by lowering down the temperature is stopping not totally but very
deeply the movements of the atoms and molecule so, in fact, inside the can, the
thermal can in which we put in tiny cannisters the cells or the embryos, we
have more or less arrested the flux of the time. This seems to be rhetorical,
but it is not because otherwise we could never understood why it is possible to
freeze a cell, to have it entirely not moving, not respirating, not having any
chemical exchange, and just if you have done it with precision (so that no
crystals have been made inside the cells which could have ruptured its very
minute architecture), if you thaw it, thaw it progressively and carefully, it
will again begin to flourish and to divide. Then it's obviously sure that we
have not arrested life and started life again. What we have arrested is the
time for this particular organism which is inside this can.
If we could put a cell down to the minus two hundred seventy-three
centigrade, that is, to the absolute zero, every movement would be stopped. And
if the temperature would be maintained at that level, it would be kept
unchanged for indefmity. I would not say eternity but indefmity. We are not
achieving that when we freeze a cell in my laboratory (and you do the same
here); we use not liquid hydrogen because it's very costly and very explosive,
and it's used only in NASA for the rockets. We use mostly liquid nitrogen
because it cannot explode, and it's rather cheap, and it's easy to manage. But
it's only minus a hundred ninety degrees that we have inside the cannister.
Well, it's rather cool, but it's not absolute zero, so the preservation is not
a hundred percent.
And probably you could not preserve the cells for more than a number
of years, that nobody knows because it depends on the cells. For example, to
the best of my knowledge for ordinary cells which are very resistant, they are
examples of more than fifteen years in the cannister and being thawed and being
correctly surviving and alive. For mouse embryo it's some ten years. In our
species I think there are no long time, maybe one or two years, no more than
that. And nobody knows with the actual technique how long the preservation
would be real preservation. It's a question I could not answer, and I think
nobody can answer precisely today.
But what I could say, that the information which is inside this
first cell obviously tell to this cell all the tricks of the trade to build
herself as the individual, this cell is already. I mean it's not a definition
to build a theoretical man, but to build that particular human person we will
call later Margaret or Paul or Peter, it's already there, but it's so small
that we cannot see it. It's by induction that we know it for the moment. And I
would say I would like to use the felicitous expression of the mathematicians.
They would say that man is reduced at its simplest expression like you can do
with an algebraic formula if you manipulate it intelligently. If you want to
know what mean that formula you have to expand it to give value to the various
parameters, and to put in use a formula, you expand it. It's what is life, the
formula is there; if you allow this formula to be expanded by itself, just
giving shelter and nurture, then you have the development of the full
Now. I know that there has been recent discussion of vocabulary, and
I was very surprised two years ago that some of our British colleagues invented
the term of pre-embryo. That does not exist, it has never existed. I was
curious, and I went to the encyclopedia, to the French encyclopedia, the one I
inherited from my great father so it was fifty years ago it was printed.
And at the term of embryo it was said: "The youngest form of a
being," which is very clear and simple definition, and it stated: "It starts as
one fertilized cell, (fertilized egg which is called also zygote), and when the
zygote splits in two cells, it is called a two-cell embryo. When it split in
four it is called a four-cell embryo." Then it's very interesting because this
terminology was accepted the world over for more than fifty years by all the
specialists of the world, and we had no need at all of a sub-class which would
be called a pre-embryo, because there is nothing before the embryo. Before an
embryo there is a sperm and an egg, and that is it. And the sperm and an egg
cannot be a pre-embryo because you cannot tell what embryo it will be, because
you don't know what the sperm will go in what an egg, but once it is made, you
have got a zygote and when it divides it's an embryo and that's it.
I think it's important because people would believe that a
pre-embryo does not have the same significance that an embryo. And in fact, on
the contrary, a first cell knows more and is more specialized, if I could say,
than any cell which is later in our organism.
Now, I don't know if I can abuse of your patience, your Honor?
THE COURT: You're doing fine.
THE WITNESS: The very young human being, just after fertilization,
after it has split in two cells and then in three cells because curiously we do
not split ourselves in two, four, eight and continue like that, no, at the
beginning we don't do that. We split in two cells of roughly equal dimension
and one of the two cells splits in two. There is a moment in which inside the
zona pellucida which is a kind of plastic bag, which is, so to speak, the wall
of the private life of the embryo in which it is protected from the outside, we
have a stage in which there are three cells. This has been known for fifty,
sixty years, and it was remaining a mystery for embryology, because after that
stage of three cells, it starts again, it comes to four, and it continue by
multiples of two.
What could be the meaning? We do not know yet the accurate meaning,
but it is of great importance about the discussion we have today because we can
manipulate non-human embryos like, for example, mices. We can disassemble the
cells which are inside the zona pellucida of a sixteen cell embryo of mice and
take few cells of it, take few cells from another embryo, of another type of
embryo, if you wish, and put all that together inside a new zona pellucida from
which you have expelled the legitimate occupant. Now, what happens? Most of the
time it fails, but sometimes a chimera comes out. For example, if you have
chosen a black embryo, a white embryo and you have mixed them together, you
find a little tiny mouse which can run on your table but which has a chessboard
on the body. Parts are black, parts are white because she has built herself of
two type of cells that you had put together in the same zona pellucida. It has
to be done with a very small number of cells.
We have tried, and when I say we, I should say geneticists, have
tried to put three different lines, and they have got few mice with three
different type of cells that they can see on the fur. They have tried four,
does not work; five, does not work. It's only possible with three cells. And
that remembers that when we split at the beginning of our life (two cells and
then one cell in two), we go at a three cell stage. It's probably at that time
that a message goes from one cell to the two other cells, come back to the
first one and suddenly realize we are not a population of cells. We are bound
to be an individual. That is individualization, that makes the difference
between a population of cells which is just a tissue culture and an individual
which will build himself according to his own rule, is demonstrated at the
three cell stage, that is very soon after fertilization has occurred.
If we stop the process, if we slow down the movement of the
molecules, we progressively come to a relative standstill, and when the embryo
is frozen, these tiny human beings, they are very small, one millimeter and a
half of a dimension, a sphere a millimeter and a half, you can put them in
cannisters by the thousands. And then with the due connotation, the fact of
putting inside a very chilly space, tiny human beings who are deprived of any
liberty, of any movement, even they are deprived of time, (time is frozen for
them), make them surviving, so to speak, in a suspended time, in a
concentration can. It's not as hospitable and prepared to life as would be the
secret temple which is inside the female body that is a womb which is by far
much better equipped physiologically, chemically, and I would say
intellectually than our best laboratories for the development of a new human
That is the reason why thinking about those things, I was deeply
moved when you phoned to me, knowing that Madame, the mother, wanted to rescue
babies from this concentration can. And to give to the baby-I would not use
term baby, it is not perfectly accurate, not good English-would offer to those
early human beings, her own flesh, the hospitality that she is the best in the
world to give them. And because Mr. Palmer told me on the phone that it had
been said that if you, Madame, were not entitled to give this shelter to the
baby-to the early human beings, (being perfectly correct in what I mean)-you
would prefer that they would be enjoying another shelter and not being left
inside the concentration can, or destroyed. And I was impressed because it
remembered me of an extraordinary trial which has occurred more than two
thousand years ago, and I could not believe it could occur again, that two
persons will discuss whether it's better to have an early human being alive and
given to a certain person or another person would prefer the baby not being
alive at all. And to the best of my recollection this judgment has been
considered as a paragon of justice when Solomon did it. I was not thinking I
would come from Paris to speak in Tennessee about a two thousand years old
trial. But I realized when you phoned to me, it was the first time it was
arising in this earth with a very early human being, because before early human
beings were not in our reach, they were protected inside the secret temple. And
then I felt it was opportunity that a geneticist was going to tell you what our
own science tells us.
If this trial had taken place two years before, I would have stopped
because I would have told you all that we knew at that moment. But with your
permission, your Honor, I will continue a little further, faster and
THE COURT: Yes.
THE WITNESS: We know much more, since the last two years, we know
that the uniqueness of the early human being I was talking at the beginning,
which was a statistical certainty (but an inference of all we knew about the
frequency of the genes, about the difference between individuals) is now an
experimentally demonstrated fact. That has been discovered less than two years
ago by Jeffreys in England, the remarkable manipulator of DNA. And Jeffreys
invented that he could select a little piece of DNA, of which he could
manufacture a lot of it, which is specific of some message in our chromosomes.
It is repeated a lot of times in many different chromosomes and which is
probably a regulation system. Some indication to do something or do another
thing, but not a kitchen recipe, but a precision about what to do.
And because it's only telling the cells that this should work and
this should not work, it can assume a lot of tiny change, so that there are so
many of those little genes and there are so many little changes in them that we
receive from father and from mother an array of those genes that we can realize
very simply, you get the DNA, you put it in solution and you have it spread in
a special medium. Then you put this special probe made by Jefferys, and what
you see it looks exactly like the bar code that you have probably seen in the
supermarket, that is, small lines of different breadth and different distance
from each other. If you put that bar code and you read it with an electronic
device, it tells the computer what the price of the object and tells a lot of
Well, it's exactly what it tells us that when we look at the DNA bar
code, and we detect every individual is different from the next one by its own
bar code. And that is not any longer a demonstration by statistical reasoning.
So many investigations have been made that we know now that looking at the bar
code with his Jeffreys system, the probability that you will find it identical
in another person is less than one in a billion. So it's not any longer a
theory that each of us in unique. It's now a demonstration as simple as a bar
code in the supermarket. It does not tell you the price of human life, it has a
difference with supermarket.
The second advance has been that we know now that in one cell we can
detect its originality. That has been due to the discovery of a new system
which is called PCR, which is becoming extraordinary popular. It started two
years ago. You can take a tiny piece of DNA, one molecule taken from one cell,
you see how little this is, you can with that technique reproduce it by
billions, and when you have enough you can make the analysis of Jeffreys and
see again that we have the whole demonstration of uniqueness, not only in a
sample taken from the individual, but in one cell, in one nucleus of one
Another is a third discovery which is by far the most important of
all, which is that DNA is not as dull as the magnetic tape I was talking
before. Nature is imitated by our discoveries, but she has known much more than
we have yet discovered. In that sense, that the message written on DNA is
written by change of the various bases which come one after the other in that
one meter long molecule. But now it happens that twenty years ago it was
described with certainty that some of the bases of DNA were carrying an extra
little piece we call a methyl, (which is CH3) which is just hooked on it and
change a little of the form of one of the bars of this long scale which is the
DNA molecule. Nobody understood what it was meaning. And it's only four years
ago (especially by the discovery of Surani) that we have begun to understand
that we were up to something extraordinary, which is that those tiny little
bits of methyl which are put on the base, cytosine, which is transformed in
methyl-cytosine-I'm sorry to be technical, your Honor, but I cannot translate
it, it's chemical slang.
THE COURT: I understand.
THE WITNESS: Is exactly comparable to what does an intelligent
reader when he wants with a pen to underline, to highlight some passage or to
scratch, delete another sentence. That is with the methylation, one gene which
is still there is knocked out, put to silence, but if it is demethylated on the
next division, on the next cell, then it will speak again.
Now, the basic discovery was that this is possible because this tiny
change on the DNA, changes the surface of the big groove of the helix of DNA.
It is inside this big groove that some molecules, some proteins will hook on
different segments specific of the DNA. It is a kind of language telling to the
chromosome: You have to tell this information or for this information, shut up,
do not speak this one for the moment. It's very necessary, because there is so
many information in our cells that if they were expressing everything, every
time, to have the energy spent by one cell would be much more than the energy
of our whole body. So it's necessary that we have some silent gene and some
gene giving expression, expressed.
Now, the basic discovery is the following, and it is directly
related to our discussion: That the DNA carried by the sperm is not underlined
(or crossed) by this methylation on the same places which are not equivalent in
the DNA chromosomes carried by ovum. During the manufacture of the sperm there
are indications, it's penciled, so to speak. It's underlined, you should do
that. But on the equivalent gene, on the equivalent chromosome manufactured by
the mother, the underline is in a different place, and it underlines something
different. So that at the moment the two sets of chromosomes carried by the
sperms and the egg are put together, they are not as we believed for years
identical. We knew there was a difference with the "X" and "Y" chromosomes, but
for the others they were believed to carry the same information; that is not
true. Some information is to be read on as coming from the male chromosome, and
another information from a chromosome coming from the mother. Now, the reason
is that the fertilized egg is the most specialized cell under the sun because
it has a special indication underlining segments of DNA which shall be
expressed and others that shall not be expressed that no other cell will ever
have in the life of this individual. When it's split in two we know that
exchange of information comes from one cell to the other one. When it's split
in three it receives information we are an individual. And when it continues
progressively, the underlining system is progressively changed so that cells do
differentiate, and cells become specialized doing a nail, doing hair, doing
skin, doing neurons, doing everything.
And the very thing is that during this process, the expansion of the
primary formula which is written in the early human being, nothing is learned
but progressively a lot of things are forgotten. The first cell knew more than
the three cell stage, and the three cell stage knew more than the morula, than
the gastrula, than the primitive streak, and the primitive nervous system. In
the beginning it was written really not only what is the genetic message we can
read in every cell, but it was written the way it should be read from one
sequence to another one. Exactly like in the program of a computer, you don't
put only the equivalent of the Algebraic formula, but you tell to the computer
do that; if you get that result, then go at that and continue that program; or
if you don't get the result, continue and go to the other program. That is
written in the first cell; is progressively forgotten in the other cells of our
At the end of the process when the organism has grown up, it produce
then its own reproductive cells, it puts the counter to zero again, and hence
the rejuvenation. A new life will begin when a female and a male cell will
encounter to produce the next generation. So I would say very precisely, your
Honor, that two years ago I would not have been able to give you this very
simple but extremely valuable information which we have now, beyond any
I would give you an example of why it's not theoretical. We can
manipulate with mice-not me, but my colleagues. And with mice they have been
able to make pseudo zygote, that is, to take one egg, expel its own legitimate
nucleus and put, for example, two nuclei coming from sperm, so they have
diploid cell, a diploid zygote containing only two sets of paternal origin; it
fails to grow. They have tried to do it with two maternal original nuclei, that
is, two maternal chromosomal cells and no paternal cells. It's diploid; by the
old theory it should grow, but it does not. But curiously both of them do
something; they don't build a full imago, that is, the whole form. But they
specialize. If there is only male nuclei, two male nuclei making what is called
an androgenote, it produce little cysts which are looking like the membranes
and placenta that the child is normally building around himself to make its
space and time capsule so that it could take the fluid from the mother vessels.
An early zygote containing only male chromosome does only that.
If a zygote contains only chromosomes from female origin, it makes
the spare parts. It makes pieces of skin, it makes piece of teeth, it can make
a little nail, but all that in a full disorder, not at all constructed it makes
the spare parts. We know this directly by experiment in mice done by Surani
last year. But we knew that but we could not understood it before.
We knew that already in man, because in man we know that there are
what is called dermoid cysts which is a division of a non-fertilized egg inside
the ovary of a virgin girl. It cannot grow. It's rare, but it is well known. It
will never give a little baby, but it makes the spare parts, teeth, nails, all
that mixed in incomprehensible disorder. On the reverse we knew that sometime
after apparently normal fertilization the product does not divide correctly but
makes cysts, little balls again and again and again, and it's called a mole,
hydatidiformis mole, and it's very dangerous because it can give the cancer to
the pregnant woman.
Now, we have discovered-(not me), you have to know I'm professor and
when I say we, it's all the professors of the world, it's not me. We have
discovered that in those hydatidiformis moles, there were only paternal
chromosomes. There were two sets of paternal chromosomes and the maternal
pronuclei had died, we don't know why. So we know by the mice experiments that
it is related to methylation of the DNA.
Hence, we know by the human observation, that there is a
specialization of information carried by the sperm compared to the information
carried by the ovum. And I would say I was wondering, not surprised, but
wondering that we were discovering at this extraordinarily tiny level of
information built into the chromosomes, that paternal duty was to build the
shelter and to make the gathering of the food, to build the hut and the
hunting. And that the maternal trick was household and building of the spare
parts so the individual can build himself. And it's a kind of admiration that
we have for nature that since we have seen in the grown up that the man is
going hunting and the mother is doing the kitchen, it is just the same deeply
written inside our own chromosomes at the very beginning at the moments the
first human constitution is spelled out.
Well, I have abused your kindness, your Honor. I have spoken maybe
too much, but I would say to finish that there is no, no difficulty to
understand that at the very beginning of life, the genetic information and the
molecular structure of the egg, the spirit and the matter, the soul and the
body must be that tightly intricated because it's a beginning of the new marvel
that we call a human.
It's very remarkable for the geneticist that we use the same word to
define an idea coming into our mind and a new human coming into life. We use
only one word: Conception. We conceive an idea, we conceive a baby. And
genetics tell us you are not wrong using the same word; because what is
conception? It's really giving information written in the matter so that this
matter is now not any longer matter but is a new man.
When we come back to the early human beings in the concentration
can, I think we have now the proof that there are not spare parts in which we
could take at random, they are not experimental material that we could throw
away after using it, they are not commodities we could freeze and defreeze at
our own will, they are not property that we could exchange against anything.
And if I understand well the present case and if I can say a word as
geneticist, I would say: An early human being inside this suspended time which
is the can cannot be the property of anybody because it's the only one in the
world to have the property of building himself. And I would say that science
has a very simple conception of man; as soon as he has been conceived, a man is
THE COURT: Before we go further, let's take a break, a very brief
break, actually a little longer one than we usually do. As most of the
representatives of the media know, there is some hospitality being furnished
you by the Blount County Chamber of Commerce. I want you to have an opportunity
to enjoy that if you care to, so we will stand in recess about twenty-five or
thirty minutes at which time our testimony will resume.
Parties may excuse themselves and Dr. Lejeune you may come down.
(Parties and counsel leave the courtroom.)
THE COURT: Ladies and gentlemen, well stand in recess. (Brief
THE COURT: Dr. Lejeune, if you would come around and take the
witness stand. Mr. Christenberry.
MR. CHRISTENBERRY: Thank you, your Honor.
BY MR. CHRISTENBERRY:
Q. Dr. Lejeune, suppose that-as a hypothetical question, but suppose
that we had heard testimony in this hearing that indicated that each mom and
each dad contribute identically the same to the embryo, and that there is no
differentiation between their contributions, could you tell us what your
opinion is about whether or not cells are differentiated?
A. It's difficult to answer that because once you know something in
science, it's very difficult to tell what you would think if you were not
knowing it. If the paternal and maternal chromosomal share of the baby was the
same, we wouldn't have any idea how this differentiation of cells do occur, so
if I had testified two years ago, I would have said that the mystery of cell
differentiation was complete, and we did not know where it was written. Now we
begin to know where it's written. It's the only difference, but it's a great
difference that we begin to know. It tells us definitely that what was an
implication that it must be written in the first cell, (this type of
differentiation must occur at this time and at the other time another
differentiation should occur). We knew it should have been written, but we did
not know at all how it was.
Q. Okay. And so you testified at great length about the
Q. And you did that for what purpose?
A. For the purpose of understanding how from an apparently
un-differentiated cell which is the one cell of the fertilized zygote, the full
imago can emerge. If science cannot say anything about the mechanism of it, it
just remains a pure constitution but no knowledge about it. It's the reason why
I wanted to put on record those new findings about the methylation of DNA,
because it proved that the implication which was as all of genetics, that
differentiation is, so to speak, prewritten in the first cell, is now having an
understandable physical support. Now, it cannot be said that the first cell is
a non-differentiated cell. It must be said now the first cell is knowing how to
differentiate the progeny, the cell progeny.
Q. Okay. And for me to understand-
A. To make it clearer, if I am looking at the mass of cell growing,
I know by my own experience in my lab for twenty years that never a baby will
form itself in our bottles because we are growing cells taken from the body. On
the contrary we know that if the cell which is dividing is a fertilized zygote,
a new individual is just now beginning to emerge.
Q. What ethical considerations do you have about freezing?
A. I think love is the contrary of chilly. Love is warmth, and life
needs good temperature. So I would consider that the best we can do for early
human beings is to have them in their normal shelter, not in the fridge. The
fridge is not a second choice, I would say it's a third choice. And typically I
would not be surprised that in a few years from now, this long way outside the
female body which is artificial insemination and this long stay in
concentration can will be considered as not very efficient. It will be much
better to make graft of the tubes to repair the difficulty of the tubal
incapacity, or to use antibiotics-new antibiotics to prevent special difficulty
with the mucosa of the tubes, or find chemicals which will help find why
certain couples, although they have normal production of cells, cannot manage
to get fertilization, or to get implantation. It's surely some chemical thing
which is not yet discovered which will be the real solution. Then I would
consider that the extracorporeal fertilization, it's, so to speak, an emergency
proposal of medicine on the present stage of medicine, but it's not good
treatment. The good treatment is yet to be found in each of the cases. It's not
the final answer, so to speak, not at all. That is my feeling, but it's a
Q. One moment, please. Doctor, I would ask you this question, and
I'm going to read it to you so I'll understand how to ask it. It has been
stated that once you get to blastomeres and they are unequal in size, that
nobody knows for sure why division of these cells might be equal in some
conditions and unequal in other conditions. Do we now know why the unequal and
equal nature exists?
A. That is a very difficult question. We know that normally, as I
said, the stage of three cells is due to inequal division of the first
blastomeres, and that seems to be the basic normal phenomenon. But why nature
do that it's still to be discovered, but it seem to be, the starting
phenomenon. Then I would say that obivously there must be something written in
the egg, telling the egg you split in two, then one of the cells split in two,
then you can discuss together all three to know what to do, the three cells
together. It's not a surprise, it's an obvious phenomenon known for a long time
it was not explained at all, which has now found explanation. We know that in
any typical chimera, made from different embryos, only three line of cells can
manage to build an imago together. That means that the individualization is at
the three cell stage.
Q. Within your knowledge. Doctor, can you tell us what we know and
what we can tell about these human beings from three cells forward? What
knowledge do we gain and at what rate do we gain it? Do you understand my
Q. Okay. We have heard testimony that at three weeks you have got
this, the nervous system starts at this stage-
Q. This starts when and it's been confusing, because we have tried
to eliminate-we tried to identify body parts, we're thinking in terms, and you
come to us with a different perspective. Can you tell us once again what it is
we have and how it progresses in development?
A. Well, from the very beginning we have a embryo. We have first a
zygote and a two cell embryo and then a three cell embryo and then a four cell
embryo, and then eight, and sixteen, and all the power of two. This embryo,
growing progressively, is inside the zona pellucida and suddenly at around six
days or seven days it begins to "hatch." The zona pellucida is, in fact, the
protection, or privacy, so that if they are twins, for example, the will not
mix together because each of them is in its own zona pellucida.
At the moment the embryo begins to hatch and make trophoblast which
will anchor itself on the mucosa, there is already so much commitments we
cannot see. There is already so much committed to build the individual that it
will not mix with a possible twin. Otherwise, in species in which you have a
lot of pups in a litter of five, ten, like in kittens or in dog, if they were
not protected, each of them at the beginning in their own plastic bag (in their
own zona pellucida), they would not make different animals, they would mix and
make a kind of chimera. But when it's so well committed, when all the cells are
so well committed to continue to cooperate with each other, then nature has
invented that embryo will hatch and rupture the zona pellucida and begin to
anchor on the uterus.
The second step, we can describe around twelve days after
fertilization; that is the very beginning of the little line which cells begin
to draw on the embryo; this little line will progressively become a kind of
gouttiere-I don't know the word in English-and finally will close itself in a
tube, and it will be the beginning of the neural tube.
Then well, let's say, what I should say more? I will describe the
whole development of the imago, let's say at three weeks, the cardiac tubes
will begin to beat, so that the heart is beginning to beat three weeks after
fertilization. And progressively you will reach the end of the embryonic period
at two months after fertilization. At that moment the little fellow will be
just size of my thumb. And it's because of that that all the mothers telling
fairy tales to the children are speaking about Tom Thumb story because it's a
true story. Therefore, each of us has been a Tom Thumb in the womb of the
mother and women have always known that there was a kind of underground
country, a kind of vaulted shelter, with a kind of red light and curious noise
in which very tiny humans were having a very curious and marvelous life. That
is the story of Tom Thumb.
Well, after Tom Thumb is visible, that is, two months of age, it has
two centimeters and a half from the crown to the rump, and if I had it-if I had
him on my fist, you would not see that I have something, but if I was opening
my hand you would see the tiny man with hands, with fingers, with toes.
Everything is there, the brain is there and will continue to grow.
It's from that moment which is two months after fertilization, that
we don't call any longer human being embryos, we call them fetuses. And that is
very true to change the name just because it tell a very plain evidence:
Nobody in the world looking for the first time at a Tom Thumb bag,
looking at an embryo of two months of a chimpanzee, of a gorilla, of an
orangutan, or of a man, nobody in the world would make a mistake just looking
at him. It's obvious this one is a chimpanzee, this one is an orangutan, this
one is gorilla, this one is a man.
The reason why we change the name, and we call it fetus, it means
only something to be carried because the full form is already present. But the
man was there before everybody could tell the difference with a chimp. For
example, if we were taking one cell-I would not do that because it's dangerous
for the being, but if we were taking one cell of a four cell embryo, it would
probably survive and compensate. We know it in mouse. Now, let's take one cell
of a chimpanzee embryo, of a human embryo, of a gorilla embryo and give it to
one of my students in the Certificate of Cytogenetics in Paris, and if he
cannot tell you this one is a human being, this one is a chimpanzee being, this
one is a gorilla being, he would fail his exam; it's as simple as that.
Q. When you see the development of three cells-
Q. And if we used the most intricate computers, let's say, that
would be used in our space program, NASA we call it, could those computers be
programmed to keep up with what is going on?
A. No, totally not. The amount of information which is inside the
zygote, which would if spelled out and put in a computer tell the computer how
to calculate what will happen next, this amount of information is that big that
nobody can measure it.
I have to explain that very simply. You have the two meters of DNA,
one coming from father, one coming from mother, that it means ten to the eleven
bits of information, just to spell out what is written on this DNA. If you add
the subscript that I was talking about methylation, then it will increase this
number by ten to the power four or to the power five. Thus, we will go very
soon, just for the DNA, at ten to the fifteen. It's an enormous number. To give
you an idea, just to print letter by letter all what it is written in the DNA
of a fertilized egg, you would need, writing G, C, T, A, and all the string of
symbols, you would need five times the Encyclopedia Brittanica just to spell
out the DNA, five times Encyclopedia Brittanica. But nobody could read it. You
could fit it into the computer. But now you would have to take care of all the
molecules that are inside the cytoplasm which will recognize the message, which
will send a message to the next cell. And to spell out this amount of
information which is absolutely necessary, (otherwise no life would be
possible), I think you would need a thousand, a million times more bits of
information. No computer in the world would have a storage enough just to fill
the amount of data. Now, to tell to the computer the algorithm to use it,
nobody knows how to do it. You have to realize that this enormous information
which makes a man is enormous compared to the information which makes a
computer, because it's a man who has made the computer; it's not the computer
which has made the man.
MR. CHRISTENBERRY: You may ask him. I would like to interject at
first if the Court-while it's fresh on the Court's mind, would have any
questions of the Doctor. He's used to facing a judge after he's told his side
of the story, and sometimes we do that in our system.
THE COURT: I have no questions at this point.
MR. CLIFFORD: Thank you, your Honor.
Cross examination by Mr. Clifford:
Q. Bon jour. Dr. Lejeune.
Q. Now that we have exhausted my French, well hopefully proceed in
English. Let me first thank you very much for being willing to come here to
Maryville, Tennessee, to appear in this trial. I believe, in fact, you come at
your own expense, is that correct?
A. Uh-huh (affirmative).
Q. Now, please bear with me. Doctor, if you're not familiar with
what I may be doing, in France they have civil law and we, as you may know,
take our law from the British system, the common law. Please interrupt me if
you're not sure where I'm going. Let me ask you this: Have you testified before
in an American Court?
Q. Could you tell me what testimony, what cases you have testified
A. Well, in American Court I have testified especially on those
questions. It was-I don't remember the Court it was.
Q. Do you remember maybe testifying in 1981 in the state of
Q. You recall that?
Q. What was that trial about?
A. Well, if I'm well remembering, the trial was about a baby who was
inside the womb, a very different case. And if I remember exactly the story
because I am not a lawyer, you know, I was not invited giving my opinion about
the case, but giving opinion about another question which was whether this baby
who could have been, I suppose at that time, some-must have been three months
old, was really a human being. It was a very simple question, but it had to be
as well answered with the available knowledge at that time.
Q. I believe. Dr. Lejeune, in that case the question was whether or
not a woman should be allowed to have an abortion?
A. I think the question was whether the husband should say he did
not want the baby to be expelled. That was the question.
Q. And I believe, and correct me, of course, if I'm wrong that in
the proof of that case the child had a chromosomatic, chromosome defect which
would likely lead-
A. No, I don't know that. I've not been aware of that, I have not
heard about that. It was not said at the trial, no.
Q. In that case you testified, I believe, that in your opinion the
fetus in that case was a human being?.
A. It was not my opinion. It was the teaching of all the genetics
that I was giving. It's no doubt it's a human being because it cannot be a
chimpanzee being, so it's a human being.
Q. And you opposed abortion in that case?
A. I dislike to kill my-a member of my kin, no doubt. And beside
that I'm a French Doctor, I have sweared the oath of Hippocrates. Hippocrates
four hundred years before Christian era made an oath that, "thou shall not give
poison, thou shall not procure abortion." It's very interesting for us doctors
because at that time in which slavery was the law, at the time in which the
father of the family was allowed to kill a baby at birth, or even later, he
founded medicine by preventing new doctors to give poison or to give abortion.
That was meaning that does not matter what the size of the patient; a patient
is a patient. That is Hippocratic oath.
Q. I believe that perhaps the first commandment is first do no
A. Thou shall not kill, yes, I have heard something about that.
Q. Let me understand what your expertise is. You are obviously an
expert in genetics.
Q. Do you recognize the scientific field of embryology? Do you
recognize there is a scientific field called embryology?
A. Oh, yes, no doubt.
Q. Do you claim to be an expert in the field of embryology?
A. I claim to be not entirely ignorant.
Q. But do you offer yourself as an expert in the field of
A. No, I'm not an expert in the field of embryology by itself.
Q. Let me ask you if you are offering yourself as an expert in the
field of psychology?
A. In the case of genetics I would have said yes because I have been
so much involved in so many cases that I have learned about human psychology
more than I should have in the faculties.
Q. But you, I take it, do not claim to have a degree in the
A. No, I have not a degree.
Q. Do you claim to have expertise in computer science?
A. Partly, sir.
Q. Do you claim to have academic credentials in the field of
A. No, not academy credentials. I have written things which were
agreeable to some academicians.
Q. Finally, do you claim any expertise in law?
A. Oh, not. I have some heredity about it, my father was.
Q. You may be more of an expert than you wish you were. But you do
not claim any academic training in the law?
Q. Or experience with the law.
A. Experience, yes, a little experience.
Q. Dr. Lejeune, I take it it has been known for quite a considerable
length of time that the genetic material that started out in the ovum and the
sperm combined, of course, into the zygote?
A. Oh, yes.
Q. How long has that been recognized?
A. It's difficult to tell because fertilization has been discovered
by Spallanzani, but he did not know about DNA, he did not know about
chromosomes, then it was just the mixing of two cells. It was at the end of the
I7th century. You asked me to tell you the whole story of genetics-
A. I agree, but it will take a month.
Q. Doctor, I'm asking you approximately how long it has been known
by the science of genetics that it was the coming together of genetic material,
regardless of whether the precise material was known by its nature or not?
A. I would say more than fifty years, going back to the early
Q. Early nineteen nineties?
A. Earlier than that. Eighteen, nineteen-I cannot explain.
Q. I think we would agree it's been a long time.
A. A long time. Three generations of students.
Q. And I take it at some point it became understood in the field of
genetics, that the genetic code or blueprint for the mature entity was
contained obviously in that first cell?
A. As I said it was known by inference, the inference was made, but
the demonstration was not there.
Q. Of course, often we refer in science to the concept of a theory.
A. Uh-huh (affirmative.)
Q. A theory being, of course, and you correct me if I'm wrong, a
proposed explanation of how a system, in this particular case genetics, works,
and then we do experiments to see if our theory holds water or whether it needs
to go back into the shop?
A. Yeah. I would say model.
Q. Model, yes. Now, in genetics, I would take it, it has been
believed on the theoretical level, all of the genetic material, all of the
information as you referred to it was in the zygote, that has been believed
theoretically for a very long time?
A. No doubt.
Q. And that what you have described to us at such length today has
been the working out of the precise mechanism of how that works?
A. In a sense, yes, but it's a little change that previously it was
an inference and now we begin to have a demonstration. For a scientist it makes
a lot of difference.
Q. Of course. But if I had come to you. Dr. Lejeune, ten years ago,
and I had said, please help me with my genetics. Doctor, do you believe that
all of the information that's necessary for the development and maturation of a
Q. Is contained in that zygotic cell we first see in the egg-
Q. Would you have told me that you believed that?
A. Well, to be perfectly correct, I would say I believe it; now I
would say I know it. That's a small difference.
Q. But I take it it would be true that, again, ten years ago had I
asked you this question about the chicken that your level of conviction about
all that information being in the zygotic cell would have been very high?
A. Yes, pretty.
Q. And certainly if in genetics we had discovered that some
information was coming into cells from some other source than the genetic
material and having an impact, we would have all been stunned, scientific world
would have been stunned?
Q. Now then, you described at great length this morning, the precise
nature of the development of embryos as far as the mechanics of the genes and
chromosomes and information that is passed from each gamete into that zygote,
and you, of course, described it as an incredibly complicated procedure?
A. Uh-huh (affirmative).
Q. I take it that your questions, you were answering specifically
about human embryos, zygotes, sperm, ova, but I take it that is also true of
chimpanzees, gorillas, mice, they are-in those species it's also a very
complicated fascinating complex mechanism?
A. Yes, but not exactly the same mechanism.
Q. Certainly. I think I have read somewhere, and I'm sure if I'm not
right you'll correct me, that genetically as far as the chromosomes, as far as
the contents of the DNA in the chromosomes, for instance, man. Homo sapiens,
and the higher mammals, particularly the gorillas, chimpanzees-help me look for
Q. There is a remarkable similarity?
A. Well, it depends what you remark. You can remark the similarity,
or you can remark the differences. And difference is incredibly interesting. I
don't know where you want to ask me.
Q. Well, I have heard it said or read that approximately
ninety-eight percent of the genetic material that is found in a chimpanzee or
gorilla is identical to what may be found in a human being.
A. It has been written, and it has been written by statistical
calculation of the DNA but not about the meaning of it. Now, what makes ninety
percent similarity in the number of words in two different texts? They can mean
something very different by the way the sentence are made. It's what makes the
difference between the species.
Q. But there is a similarity in the DNA?
A. Oh, yes, exactly like the similarity in the fact they have two
hands like us, not the same thumb, but they have hands, we have feet, but they
are the most similar to us, no doubt. It's no surprise that the DNA also has
Q. But the same basic process that we observe in human beings we
also observe in chimpanzees?
A. Oh, yes.
A. Mice, I would not go that far but partly.
Q. Mice have zygotes?
A. Oh, yes, I mean-I want to make clear when we speak about basic
mechanism we have to know what we mean by basic. For example, I told you the
enormous importance of methylation of the DNA we discovered those years. But,
for example, Drosophila does not methylate the DNA.
Q. That's the fruit fly?
A. That's the fruit fly but it's a very complex organism. It's makes
a differentiation of cells that makes me believe that with methylation we have
unveiled one of the tricks used by nature, but there are other tricks we are
still using, we men, that were sufficient to build a Drosophila but would not
be sufficient to build the human being. I would not agree that basic mechanism
are the same in the whole living system. Surely it's much more complicated to
build a human being, to determinate on one cell the wiring of his brain so that
he will some day invent machine to help his own brain to understand the law of
the universe. There is something peculiar to the human beings compared to
others, you know. I will tell you one thing, very simple: I'm traveling a lot,
and as far as I can I visit two points which are very important for me when I
go in a new town: One is the university and other is the zoological garden. In
the university I have often seen very grave professors asking themselves
whether after all their children when they were very young were not animals,
but I have never seen in a zoological garden a congress of chimpanzees asking
themselves whether their children when they are grown up will become
universitarians. I feel there is a difference somewhere.
Q. Doctor, I forgot to ask you a couple of questions about your
expertise, and please pardon me for having to come back, but I take it from
your testimony when Mr. Christenberry was asking you questions that you have
not worked in the field of what is called in this country in vitro
Q. I believe in France there is a different term for that.
A. No, it's called also fecundation in vitro.
Q. But you have not been involved any in in vitro fertilization
Q. You have not been asked to advise in vitro fertilization clinics
on matters of genetics or anything else?
A. Not directly, but I have advised a lot of my patients who
consider whether they should have or not this type of investigation.
Q. I suppose I should ask you this, I understand in vitro
fertilization is done in France?
A. Oh, yes.
Q. How long has this procedure been carried out in your country?
A. Well, I think Amanda has been six years, now, six years and a
half, she was the first test tube baby in Paris. I think she is six years,
seven years maybe.
Q. Let me see. Dr. Lejeune, if I understand the point you are making
this morning. It is your belief as a geneticist, that all the information that
is necessary to create a human being, a unique individual human being, we could
go in and find in a nucleus of a zygote?
A. No, I never said that. In the zygote I would say, not in the
nucleus. You need the nucleus and whole cytoplasm. The zygote cannot be reduced
to the magnetic tape. We have also to have the tape recorder working.
Q. We can take if we wished on a perhaps philosophical scientific
experiment here, we could take a zygote, look at it, look at the DNA, look at
the other structures in that one cell and assuming that we had the knowledge to
be able to do it, tell everything about that human being?
A. I would say yes, beside accident, which cannot be predicted, but
I would say no machine is big enough to put in it this information, it is
A. It's not practical.
Q. We're engaging on a philosophical experiment.
A. To be frank and to give you my belief I'm not sure well be any
time able to build a machine big enough to do that job. There is no evidence
Q. Dr. Lejeune, then theoretically-
A. Otherwise this machine would be a fertilized egg itself.
Q. But if we had such a machine on our philosophical experiment, we
could look into the zygote, and we could tell what color hair this person would
A. No doubt.
Q. What color eyes this person could have?
Q. Could we look into the zygote and, either in the structure or
chromosome or DNA, and tell what language the person would speak?
A. I don't believe so, sir, because language is a basic phenomenon
built in. We could say, in your example, theoretical example, this being will
be able to speak, but he will speak Japanese if he is in Tokyo. But we could
say conversely with your same system, looking at a chimpanzee first cell, this
being will never speak.
Q. Could we look into the zygote, into the genes of the chromosomes,
into the DNA structure and tell whether this individual would like the music of
A. Partly, yes, sir, because we could in your hypothesis be sure
that he is perfectly normal, and if he is perfectly normal he would like
Q. Dr. Lejeune, do you intend to investigate to find the defective
chromosomes for those who do not like Beethoven?
A. No, no, but you were asking me about normality.
Q. Could we look into the zygote, into the chromosomes, DNA, into
the balance of the structure, and tell whether this individual would grow up to
be a person of liberal or conservative persuasion?
A. Well, even looking at the grown-up I cannot tell that, sir.
Q. Of course, as you realize. Professor Lejeune, I'm trying to make,
I guess, a philosophical point, and that is while some information, a great
deal obviously of information is contained in that zygote, that there would
obviously be things we could not detect with our philosophical machine about
the individual when he or she was twenty, forty or sixty?
A. Uh-huh (affirmative).
Q. Dr. Lejeune, let me come I guess to what is the heart of the
matter here and the heart of your testimony. You mentioned using the word
conception and defining it in two different ways, defining it as the point
where a zygote comes into existence and the point where we have a thought, and
really would you agree with me, Dr. Lejeune, that what we're concerned about in
this case and in the great debate about human life are definitions? How do we
define a human being?
A. Oh, yes.
Q. Now, of course, when you define a human being, what we're
assuming there is that a human being has certain rights whether God given
rights or legal rights?
A. That is not what define a human being.
Q. Of course not. I understand. But I take it and I will ask you
directly, Dr. Lejeune: You have referred to the zygote and the embryo as quote
"early human beings.'
Q. Do you regard an early human being as having the same moral
rights as a later human being such as myself?
A. You have to excuse me, I'm very, very direct. As far as your
nature is concerned, I cannot see any difference between the early human being
you were and the late human being you are, because in both case, you were and
you are a member of our species. What defines a human being is: He belongs to
our species. So an early one or a late one has not changed from its species to
another species. It belongs to our kin. That is a definition. And I would say
very precisely that I have the same respect, no matter the amount of kilograms
and no matter the amount of differentiation of tissues.
Q. Dr. Lejeune, let me make sure I understand what you are telling
us, that the zygote should be treated with the same respect as an adult human
A. I'm not telling you that because I'm not in a position of knowing
that. I'm telling you, he is a human being, and then it is a Justice who will
tell whether this human being has the same rights as the others. If you make
difference between human beings, that is, on your own to prove the reasons why
you make that difference. But as a geneticist you ask me whether this human
being is a human, and I would tell you that because he is a being and being
human, he is a human being.
Q. And I take it you would believe from your testimony today that it
is morally very wrong to intentionally kill a zygote?
A. I think it's no good, it's killing a member of our species.
Q. And it would be the same as if we were to kill twenty years later
the person, human being, that the zygote would become?
A. It's difficult to tell because you ask me a justice question; I'm
Q. Now, but those are your beliefs?
A. My belief is that it's no good to kill a member of our kin, very
Q. There is not much difference to you between whether it's at the
zygote level, the fetus level?
A. There is a great difference as they have not the same age. Some
of them are very youthful ones, others are old ones. But it doesn't make for me
a great difference, in the true sense of the fact it is discarding a member of
my species. It's the only reason why I don't kill people, it's because they are
human. Otherwise, some of them-some difficulty in life . . .
Q. Dr. Lejeune, you, of course, are a scientist, and I'm sure that
in the large part, you base your convictions and feelings upon your knowledge
of genetics and other sciences. Will you concede. Dr. Lejeune, there are other
very distinguished scientists, men who are as learned as you, who have thought
and who have access to the same scientific information that you have, who come
to a different conclusion?
A. About what?
Q. About the moral rights or moral duty to the zygote.
A. Oh, in that case yes, but not about the fact it's a human being
Q. I understand that.
A. But that's the point.
Q. I understand that. There are even, I believe, individuals in your
own country who differ with your view of what ethical duty is owed to the
A. Well, I think in France we are divided in forty million opinions
Q. But you do recognize there are men in your own country of great
learning who differ with your view on the ethics of the embryo and zygotic
A. Oh, that's obvious.
Q. I believe. Dr. Lejeune, in the earlier-or I'd say slightly
mid-nineteen eighties, your country set up a commission to study the ethical
concerns raised by the technology of in vitro fertilization. Are you aware of
the national commission?
A. Well, you can call it a national commission, it's specially
appointed by the president of France, so all the people have been nominated by
the president. It's a presidential thing. It's not really a national thing.
It's called national, but it's not elected so it's not representative at
Q. Well, I believe it was called national commission.
A. They have called them national commission, but you have to know
they are not representative. They are not elected by bodies.
Q. Were you on that committee?
A. No, and I can tell you why, because I'm a member of the Academie
des Sciences Morales et Politiques, moral and political sciences, and normally
a member of this academy should have been appointed ex officio. Deliberately in
the constitution, the by-laws of this committee, our academy was not put on it
because they knew that the Academie des Sciences Morales et Politiques would
appoint me. Just an interesting phenomenon.
Q. So you feel-
A. I don't feel anything about it. It's just a fact. I don't feel
Q. You believe you were intentionally kept off this committee?
A. I believe that our academy was kept off, no doubt.
Q. Since they knew that it would be you that was appointed you were
intentionally kept off?
A. That is a scientific hypothesis, not demonstrated.
Q. But you do, I take it, recognize that the members of the national
commission that were appointed were distinguished persons in their fields?
A. I have never seen somebody in a committee who is not
Q. And regarding those individuals even if you disagree with them, I
take it you would recognize their integrity?
A. Case by case.
Q. Case by case.
A. Case by case.
Q. Do you know all the members of the committee?
Q. But you would, in general, agree they are persons of integrity
A. Case by case.
Q. Are you familiar with the report of the national commission?
A. Yes, I have read it.
Q. You have read it?
Q. The report of your national commission expresses some very grave
reservations about the technique we know here as cryopreservation. Are you
familiar with that?
A. Uh-huh (affirmative).
Q. Let me ask you this. Dr. Lejeune: Do you share those reservations
A. I have many reservations. Probably it's not very good.
Q. We heard testimony from Dr. Shivers, who was the embryologist who
worked in this case, that with cryopreservation there was a statistical loss of
the frozen embryos in the range of, I believe he said, fifteen to thirty
A. He's a better specialist about this attrition percent than I
Q. So that you can expect, therefore, by the rules of statistics if
we freeze one hundred pre-embryos, and we come back to thaw them at any point,
we know the odds are very, very high well only have seventy, seventy-five or
A. Uh-huh (affirmative).
Q. We knew that before we put them in the frigidaire?
Q. Would you regard that as an intentional killing of embryos?
A. No, but I would consider that it's making the embryo running a
risk, and whether this risk was in the best interest of the embryo or not is an
open question. I explain. When we do an intervention in a baby for a heart
disease, in some intervention we know that around twenty percent of them will
be killed by the intervention. And in this case the intervention is made only
if we know if we don't operate the child will be killed by the disease at
ninety-nine percent of probability. Then we say in the real interests of this
patient the best for him is to operate even if the operation is still
dangerous, the danger is much greater if we don't operate. That is a way you
can make indeed some choices in medicine which are dangerous but which are, in
fact, the best that you can do in the interest of this particular patient.
Now, in the case of an embryo, I am not sure it is in his own
interest that this choice is made.
Q. In fact it's made in a choice that as Dr. Shivers and Dr. King
testified previously, that it merely gives the woman a better chance since she
won't have to go through the stimulated cycle having shots and medication,
hormones injected into her, it simply gives her a better chance of becoming
pregnant. You're aware of that?
A. I am aware of that.
Q. So in cryopreservation we know that we are going to kill ten,
twenty, thirty percent of these early human beings merely so the woman has a
better chance of getting pregnant?
A. That would be one of the reservations that I would have, but I
dislike you say you kill. It's not killing.
Q. If we were to take the members, the individuals seated in the
jury box and I were to have a room I could put them in where we would know that
thirty percent of them would come out dead, would you not agree I would be
guilty of murder?
A. Well, it depends, sir, because if the room you were talking about
were a shelter during a bombing time and if remaining in that room all of them
will be dead, but in the shelter some of them will survive, even if thirty
percent of them will be dead, you did well. So it depends on the reason why you
Q. What if I did it not to take them out of a position of greater
harm but merely for the benefit of some person other than themselves, not one
of them but Mr. Palmer?
A. I suppose he would refuse you do it, I'm sure.
Q. You recognize the ethical and moral dilemma I'm raising, of
A. No, I don't recognize it, sir.
Q. You don't?
A. No, because you use the word killing. And if you take a embryo
which has been frozen and you put him briskly at normal temperature so that he
will die, you are killing the embryo. If you are freezing the embryo you are
not trying to kill him, if I understand what you have in your mind is to help
the embryo surviving so he could be implanted in the womb of the mother. So
your technique is not good because you lose part of them, but you are not
killing. And I would not say that my colleagues who are freezing embryos are
killers. It's not true. Otherwise, maybe it's because I don't understand
English, but I would not use the word kill.
Q. The national commission in its report used a term which in
English is supernumerary?
Q. Referring to supernumerary embryos, referring particularly to
cryopreservation, embryos which are not to be used with a particular patient,
woman, who has undergone IVF. Are you familiar with that term, first of
A. I know that term, and it's a wrong term. Can you tell me a man
who is supernumerary?
Q. Maybe just a lawyer.
A. I don't believe that, as a man he is not supernumerary. Maybe-I'm
not saying anything.
Q. But that is the term that is used in the report of the national
A. Yes, but it is a very misleading term, exactly the same thing as
pre-embryo. You change the name because you will change your behavior, and I
dislike that. I like to call a cat a cat, and a man a man. It's Wendell Holmes
who said a man is a man is a man.
Q. And a dog a dog and chicken a chicken?
A. No, but "a man is a man is a man," is a saying in your
Q. Well, rather at this point debating whether the term was wise or
not, I'm asking if that was the term that was used.
Q. Now, as I think I asked you and you told me awhile ago, the
French commission did have reservations about the whole process of
cryo-preservation, because, of course, it leads to the precise problem that we
have in this case. Of course, you know that regular IVF the woman is implanted
or pre-embryos-excuse me, the embryos are inserted within forty-eight
A. As soon as you can, yes.
Q. Whereas with a cryopreserved embryo, it might be six months, it
might be a year. In fact, I believe that you are aware that the French
guidelines provide for a year for the first child, recommend that a
cryopreserved embryo should not be saved longer than twelve months for the
A. Could I tell you because you speak about what is said in French
that this committee is consultative. It means that what he says as guidelines
is for himself.
Q. But these are the guidelines published by the national commission
that was appointed by your government-
A. It's consultative. It has no law, no force; just an opinion.
Q. But you are aware that the commission recommended one year for
the first child?
Q. And then with an extension of an additional twelve months if a
second child was desired?
A. I don't follow you.
Q. One question that was raised in the commission was how long you
should keep a cryopreserved embryo?
Q. Now, and the committee recommended that it should not exceed
twelve months without very special circumstances and without a great deal of
thought by people concerned with the ethical dilemma of IVF, do you recall
A. I know about that, but I don't see the meaning.
Q. I'm just asking you about the report at this point.
A. Yes. Nobody knows from where it was coming, the time of one year.
Out of the air?
Q. Now, the French commission recognized that one of the dilemmas
that was posed by cryopreservation again was the open ended time, time during
which, as in this case, things could change, is that correct?
A. I have to be very precise, I don't know by heart the whole
document you are talking about.
Q. I'm not going to ask you to quote it. But let me ask you this:
Are you aware that the national commission of France that spoke on this subject
recommended that in the case where the project of the couple, that is, the IVF
project of this couple is abandoned in the meantime, and that meantime refers
to cryopreservation being used or is unfeasible because, for example, of the
separation of the couple, the only solution retained by the committee by way of
the least evil consist in the destruction of the embryos with the reservation
of the possiblity of donation for research?
A. I'm not aware of that at all, sir, because the consultative
committee said it would not give any indication because they have not reached
any opinion. I don't know what document you are talking about, but the one I
have read was not this one. If you talk about this document, the opinions
saying that it's better to kill the frozen embryos, it's just in my opinion
wrong, I disagree with it.
MR. CLIFFORD: Your Honor, may I approach the witness?
THE COURT: You may.
BY MR. CLIFFORD:
Q. Let me show you a page here which unfortunately for me is in
A. That's good for me.
Q. And ask if you could read the title of the document?
A. (Reading in French.)
Q. Could you-
A. I'll try to make a translation. Advice concerning research on
human embryos in vitro and their utilization for medical and scientific
Q. Could you continue to read the page? If you would rather not-
A. Well, what interest?
Q. Just the headings.
A. Recommendation to the use of in vitro fertilization as answer to
infertility-it's very long.
Q. Well, that is, in fact, the report of the national commission, is
A. Well, I'm sorry, sir, but it's not printed. It's something made
on a computer. I don't see any important document there because it's-probably
it has been a project of it, but it has not been published as a final advice
because as I know, what I have heard on television, they said they have not
reached an opinion on that. I'm sorry, but it doesn't matter anyway. It's a
Q. I'm somewhat surprised by that answer, Dr. Lejeune, because I'm
given to understand-you can correct me here-in December of 1986, a committee of
distinguished French scientists made their report to the government. The report
was started 1983.
A. No, no, there is no final advice given by this body on this
particular problem. They have discussed it, and they said we will continue to
discuss it, as far as I know.
Q. As far as you know?
A. Uh-huh (affirmative).
Q. You are not familiar with the national commission report?
A. When it is published, yes, I read it, but that is not published
matter. I don't see where you want to go with this question.
Q. In fact. Dr. Lejeune, will you agree with me, sir, that there are
distinguished, learned men and women in your own country of France who take the
view that when a couple separates or is divorced that any embryos that may be
in cryopreservation should be discarded or destroyed?
A. That there exists people thinking that, no doubt, because if they
say that it's probably because they think it. But it does not prove they're
Q. Of course, not. Of course, not. And, of course, I take it because
you have your feelings, you would concede that it does not prove that you are
A. On that, I would not agree entirely with you.
Q. Okay. All right. Would you agree with me. Dr. Lejeune, that
really, of course, we're talking about what will become in this Court a legal
A. Yeah, partly.
Q. And that legal question is what quote 'rights,' if any, an embryo
should have legally?
A. Disagree with that. I'm not thinking about the rights of the
embryos; I'm thinking about the duty of the parents and of society. Duty is a
Q. Let's talk about duty because that is a word that courts can
understand. You believe, in fact, there is a duty, and a strong duty, to bring,
or attempt to bring an embryo to term and birth?
A. The embryos have been frozen for that purpose.
Q. I'm not so much talking about the particular seven embryos in
this case, but any embryo that's been produced by I VF or in vitro
A. It if it has been produced, it has been produced in the view that
it could be put somewhere in which it could be developed, that is the womb.
Q. So you would believe that the man has a duty to bring it to life,
bring it to birth rather, is that correct?
A. What man?
Q. This man, the man who is the donor of the sperm.
Q. That he has a duty, a moral duty to bring it to term?
Q. And you would believe that the woman has such a duty?
A. I would believe that if she was not feeling having that duty, she
would not have accepted the beginning of the process.
Q. Now, you, of course, are best known for your discovery of the
chromosome connected with Down's Syndrome?
A. That is long ago.
Q. You have researched since that point other conditions or
diseases, abnormal conditions which relate to the chromosomes that are passed
on by heredity, is that correct?
Q. If I understand what you also told us this morning, it is
possible to tell at the zygote level whether-
A. Not at the zygote level.
Q. At the embryo level?
A. Yes, and late embryo.
Q. Late embryo level whether or not this early human being will
suffer from Down's Syndrome?
A. Oh, yes, yes.
Q. And as-
A. In fact, it's essentially for a fetus. It is after two
Q. But there is no reason that you know of, I take it that we could
not at some point in the not very distant future even make that diagnosis in
the embryo level?
A. In some future, might not.
Q. I take it from your testimony. Dr. Lejeune, you would believe
that even if the embryo, that early human being, was going to suffer from
Down's Syndrome or some other very serious condition or abnormality, that it
would still be the duty of the mother and the father to bring it to term?
A. I would say the duty is not to kill, and that duty is universal.
And I would say that if by technique I was looking at the chromosomes of this
baby, and I see the chromosomes abnormal, say for example, he has a trisomy
twenty-one, I would say that this is the disease. But if I look at the other
forty-six chromosomes that are normal I would see the mankind of the baby. And
I don't condemn a member of my kin.
Q. You would believe that the donors of that embryo would have a
moral imperative, a duty to bring that-
A. Not to kill the embryo.
Q. That early being into a later stage of human being?
A. Not to kill him.
Q. Now, let me drop back down to a bit more normal level of
questions, Dr. Lejeune. Bear with me. Let's take a embryo in general, just
statements that we can make about all embryos that would be true. That there is
obviously a genetic contribution both by the woman and by the man?
A. Yes, there is a contribution by the father and by the mother.
Q. By the father and by the mother?
Q. And without the contribution of either there would be no
Q. So on that sense the contributions of the mother and contribution
of the father-
A. Are both necessary.
Q. Are equal?
A. No, they are not equal. They are different, but they are both
A. Necessary, absolutely.
Q. And now let's talk about a particular embryo, early human being,
and let's look at this early human being when it's became a later human being.
Obviously, as far as the genetic makeup of this particular individual, it might
be, in fact, more strongly influenced by the mother's contribution, at least in
some areas, or might be more strongly influenced by the father's
A. Who knows.
Q. Who knows. And, of course, unless we were to examine it, we
A. Uh-huh (affirmative).
Q. And certainly you are not in this Court saying that women
contribute more genetic material?
A. In fact, I'm obliged to say, yes, they contribute more genetic
material. For example, all the DNA on the mitochondria is coming from the
mother, not from the father. Makes a little difference. It's a fact.
Q. It's a fact?
A. It's a fact.
Q. But it's also a fact without both contributions-
A. They are both necessary, no doubt.
Q. But you are not here today saying. Dr. Lejeune, that the reason,
the sole reason that Mrs. Davis should win this case and prevail is because her
DNA contribution may have been slightly more than Mr. Davis' DNA
A. I don't understand your question. I cannot see how you can solve
a judicial problem with DNA contributions.
Q. You are saying that it's your opinion that these embryos should
be allowed to develop in this young lady because you believe they're early
A. I do believe they are early human beings, and I have been told
that their mother offered them shelter. Who could refuse that?
Q. But not because of DNA contribution?
A. Because they're her own flesh.
Q. Well, they're his own flesh, too, aren't they?
Q. And obviously he will be their father forever, for the rest of
his life if there are children?
A. (Witness nods head in the affirmative).
Q. You will not deny that would have an effect?
A. I would not deny anything.
Q. I take it. Dr. Lejeune, therefore, if you believed that a embryo
was not a human being as that term is used in ethical or legal or moral or
philosophical or religious way that your view of this case may well be
A. Totally. If I was convinced that those early human beings are, in
fact, piece of properties, well, property can be discarded, there is no
interest for me as a geneticist. But if they are human beings, what they are,
then they cannot be considered as property. They need custody.
Q. What it really turns on is what philosophically, ethically,
legally that embryo may be. In your mind, sir, you have come to the very firm
conviction that the early embryo or that the embryo is a human being, early
human being, as you described it?
Q. And you do recognize in other men's minds, after long and deep
thought, learned men, they come to the opposite conclusion you do?
A. No, I don't agree with that.
Q. You don't agree with that?
A. I have not yet seen any scientist coming to the opinion that it
is a property. It is what is the case. It's whether they are property that can
be discarded, or whether they're human being who must be given to custody. That
is it. You ask my question, I answer precisely; I have never heard one of my
colleagues-we differ on opinion of many things, but I have never heard one of
them telling me or telling to any other that a frozen embryo was the property
of somebody, that it could be sold, that it could be destroyed like a property,
never. I never heard it.
Q. Just so I understand what you're telling us, I take it. Dr.
Lejeune, from your testimony that you would be opposed to abortion?
A. Oh, I dislike to kill anybody. That is very true, sir.
Q. You would believe that abortion should not be legal?
A. That is another point which is different. I think abortion is
killing people, and I think in a good jurisdiction would make those killing
people become rare. You cannot prevent everything.
Q. I take it, again, your basis of that belief would be that the
fetus or embryo is an early human being?
A. Exactly. If it was a tooth, I would not worry about it.
Q. Finally, Dr. Lejeune, I'd like to thank you very much first for
coming here to Maryville, Tennessee, to share your scientific and philosophical
views with the Court. I hope that you enjoy your stay and that your trip back
is enjoyable. I have only one final question for you. Okay? What is this?
A. Well, from here I suppose it's an egg, but I'm not sure.
Q. Let me get a little closer.
A. It looks like an egg.
Q. It's an egg?
A. It looks like.
MR. CLIFFORD: Thank you. Doctor, I thought you were going to tell me
it was an early chicken.
THE WITNESS: Oh-
MR. CLIFFORD: I have no further questions.
THE WITNESS: Your Honor.
THE COURT: You may respond, if you wish.
THE WITNESS: Yes, I would respond to that because I have never
pretended that I could see through a shell. I don't know if it's has been
fertilized so I cannot know whether it's an early chicken.
BY MR. CLIFFORD:
Q. All right. Let's talk about the difference for a moment. If I had
in this hand a live chicken, would you agree with me if I were to take it and
squeeze its head that it would feel pain?
A. Oh, probably.
Q. That it will be frightened?
Q. And it would suffer psychological, if you can use that term with
a chicken, stress?
A. I'm not competent in psychology, you told me, and especially not
Q. But if I take this egg and assuming it is fertilized-I wouldn't
really do this. Jay-but if I were to crush it in my hand, this egg would not
feel pain, it would not be aware in the slightest of what was happening to
A. Yeah. But it would be still a chicken and only a chicken.
Q. I thought you told me it was an egg?
A. You told me it was a chicken.
MR. CLIFFORD: No further questions.(A brief discussion was held off
Cross examination by mr.taylor:
Q. Dr. Lejeune, I have just a very few questions. You testified
earlier that in the case of freezing human embryos, the temperature is lowered
only to, I think, a hundred and eighty or ninety degrees below centigrade, is
A. Yes, generally.
Q. And because that is not absolute zero there are still certain
processes that continue within those embryos?
A. Very slowly.
Q. And because of that, it is your opinion that life or the
processes are not suspended completely, and therefore the embryo continues to
age or develop, is that right?
A. No, it does not continue to develop, but it can age in the sense
of losing some properties because of the agitation of the molecule and not
being able to repair it. It's the reason why if you freeze cells, ordinary
cells in tissue culture, and if you thaw them, after one month you will get
ninety percent groove, after ten years you will get fifty percent, so
eventually some of them have died in the process.
Q. Is it then your opinion if these embryos are left in this frozen
condition indefinitely, ultimately they will perish?
A. If they were to be protected for a long time, I would put them in
liquid hydrogen, but it will cost very much.
Q. If they're in liquid nitrogen which is not absolute zero, is it
your opinion that they would ultimately perish?
A. I cannot tell time but ultimately.
Q. Is it your opinion that the ultimate effect of storage in
cryopreservation ultimately would have the same effect as destroying them
A. In the ultimate, yes, but I dislike to speak about very long time
because I'm not sure of what would happen in between.
Q. Yes, sir. You indicated that you do not object to in vitro
fertilization as a process, do you?
A. I do not favor it for theoretical reasons. I guess it's a trick
we use now in the present stage of knowledge, but it's not the best answer. If
you read the newspaper it seems to be the last word about helping reproduction,
and I guess it's a wrong idea. But that is a technical opinion.
Q. Even though it may not be the ultimate solution, the ideal
solution, you would concede that many, many infertile couples have been helped
by in vitro fertilization, would you not?
A. I would consider some have been helped, but the number that have
been helped by other methods is much greater. But some have been helped, no
Q. Doctor, you indicated that one of the reasons you objected to
cryopreservation was because there is a mortality rate, certain percentage of
the embryo do not survive the process, is that correct?
A. It's not only that. That is one of the reasons, but it's not the
Q. Are you aware. Doctor, in a normal cycle, a natural reproductive
cycle that as many as sixty percent of the ova produced by a mother undergo
actual fertilization? Are you familiar with that particular statistic?
A. No, I don't understand what you mean.
Q. We have been told that as many as sixty percent of the eggs
produced by a mother may be actually fertilized, but statistically only about
twenty-five actually result in a birth.
A. You mean about the early death of early human beings. Well, it
has been a very disputed field. To the best of our knowledge, we can rely on
experimental animals because we can look at the number of yellow corpus which
develops on the ovary and tells us how many eggs have been laid and look at the
litter, for example, in mice or any other animals. It seems that thirty percent
of the conceptus die, but that more than sixty percent of conceptus come to
birth and to normal-that has been established in many wild animals. Then it
seems that the number of early deaths has been overestimated recently in our
species. I would guess it around the order of thirty percent. Some of them said
sixty percent; I would guess myself it's around closer to thirty than to sixty,
but that is-
Q. You do recognize-
A. A sizable number.
Q. You do recognize, do you not, though. Doctor, that when a man and
woman attempt to have a child by normal sexual intercourse, there is a percent
of embryo human beings, in your terminology, that are created that never result
in a birth; that is a risk they undergo?
A. It's difficult to answer your question because some of those
fertilizations are probably abnormal fertilizations that can be early cysts and
what we call empty cysts which are probably not really true fertilizations. It
is very complex, but I agree with you that the road of life is dangerous, even
at the very beginning.
Q. I guess my question is. Doctor, then even in natural intercourse
trying to achieve a pregnancy, there are going to be some risks that some of
the embryo will not survive just like in vitro fertilization?
Q. Finally, Doctor, as I understand your testimony here today, if
you were advising his Honor on a solution to this very troublesome problem,
your first preference would be that the embryo be returned to the mother, Mrs.
Davis, in this case, is that correct?
A. I would go step by step, if you ask me. May I, your Honor?
THE COURT: Yes, you may.
THE WITNESS: I would first say it's not a property so they must not
be destroyed. Secondly, they have been put into suspended time in the hope that
some day they will be given shelter by their own mother, and their mother
offers them shelter. I don't see any reason not to grant it to them and to her.
BY MR. TAYLOR:
Q. Let me take that one step further: If his Honor should decide for
some reason that it is not appropriate that Mrs. Davis, the mother, should have
these embryo, would you then agree that the second preference, the second best
solution would be to donate them to some other couple, some other mother who
would bring them into being, or attempt to bring them into being?
A. I would agree with that because that would preserve the life of
the embryos, but then if you agree with that, you are coming back to the
Solomon decision. The true mother is the one who prefer the baby given to
another than the baby being killed. Then I would suppose that the justice would
be on the side of Solomon.
MR. TAYLOR: We all hope his Honor has the wisdom of Solomon. Thank
THE COURT: Do you have anything?
MR. CHRISTENBERRY: No, thank you, your Honor.
THE COURT: Any recross?
MR. CLIFFORD: No, your Honor.
THE COURT: Dr. Lejeune, you may come down and have a seat over here
with Mr. Palmer and Mr. Christenberry.
(The witness was excused.)