Seven wishes for life

Professor Jérôme Lejeune

C.R. Congrès de la Famille : Brighton 1990


Monsieur le President, Chers amis, I always try to speak English when I am on this side of the Channel.

I decided to change the title of this talk, because I realized we have really to face a very curious phenomenon. These days, human intelligence is, so to speak, submerged by two contrary waves. One is the marvellous wave of understanding. Every day it tells us more about the marvel of nature, and every day we are discovering new steps which bewilder us.

The other wave is an ominous one, the wave of obscurantism : it says, it pretends to say, that the more we know about genetics, about mechanism of life, the less we know agout human nature and about what is a human! And I must say that in both of those waves, British people are playing a forefront role : in science, as we will see latter, and unfortunately also in antiscience. British scientists are in the forefront for the good wave of understanding, but the British law makers are in the forefront of the disaster in the obscurantism wave. And pondering over, the responsibility of your country towards family, towards the future of mankind in front of those two waves of under-standing and obscurantism, my wish could be very simple indeed. It would be : "Rule Brittania" over those two waves! So you understand why I feel deeply grateful for the people who received us as members of their family here.

To help you ruling over those waves, I would like to remind you of some very simple facts. Living matter does not exist. Matter cannot live at all, matter cannot even be reproduced at all. When you reproduce a statue, what is reproduced is not the matter of the statue, because the replica is made of something else than the original. What is reproduced is the information imprinted in the matter by the genius of the sculpture. Then all genetics is about discovering what produces the animation of matter : because matter can be animated. We are animated matter. And if I could say so, I would state that what matters is not the material. What matters is what makes information so that matter can be animated. To sumarize Genetics, I would say : In life there is a message and if this message is human, then this life is a human life. Matter, if animated by a human nature, will be able to build a body in which a spirit will manifest itself inside the flesh. That is Genetics. That is the definition of a human being.

But now, if really spirit animates matter (which is the core of our science of Genetics) we have to wonder whether the gifts of the Spirit could not help us to understand what is life.



There are seven gifts of the Spirit, and I would like to wish you each of them. My first wish would thus be : wisdom be with you!

You have possibly heard in this country, that we have had in France last year a very important centennial ceremony about "Les droits de l'homme"- Rights of Man. Well, you have probably not been told that twenty one years after they were proclaimed officialy, a philosopher proposed to the French Senate (it was under Napoleon's Empire), that a law should be enacted forbidding doctors of suffocating between two mattresses people affected by rabies! Twenty one years after the proclamation of man's rights still in Paris, rabid patients were suffocated between mattresses! This proposal of the law was not discussed at all by the Senate, it was just dismissed by a commission. Twelve years later was born a child - his name was Louis Pasteur - and all his life was a demonstration that those who liberated nanking from rabies and from the plague, were not those who were suffocating rabid patients or who were burning plague-stricken people in their houses.

But those who attacked the disease, not the patient.

As Louis Pasteur wrote, a doctor must be caring for everyone : without asking what's your name, your race or your religion, but what's your suffering, and trying to cure.

Medecine can be defined by very many systems of diagnosis, of prognosis, of treatment, but it has one function which can be summarised in one phrase - "hatred of the disease and love of the disabled". If we change those terms of reference, if we begin to fight on the same side as the disease, then really, truly speaking, eliminating the patient in order to eradicate the disease, is exactly abortion of medicine. To understand that, let us take a very simple example. In a hippodrome, when there is a casualty, you ask the veterinarian to kill the horse, but you ask the surgeon to recue the rider. If the surgeon kills deliberately the patient, then you have changed medicine for veterinarian technique. Then I hope, in this country, you will have the wisdom to continue to make a difference between the one who uses biology applied to animals, and the one who applies biology to mankind.



My second wish would be that : understanding be with you! To respect every man, to try to care for him without asking him all his qualities, we need to know that every human being is to be respected just because he belongs to our species and that everyone is unique and irreplacable. By the way, you know that in your own language as in my language, we use the same term to define a new human being coming to life and an idea arising in your mind. We conceive a baby, we conceive an idea, conception is process both for the mind and for the body of a new mind. And that is then written in the language itself that it is the spirit which animates our animated matter.

That every human being is unique was known for hundred of years and statistically demonstrated in our species at least Fifty years ago. The number of combinations of genes is so great: that we were sure that everyone had a specific constellation only to be found on himself. But that was a calculation. Now we can see it. Two years ago, it. became of general use, the discovery made in this country by JEFFRIES who started it around Four or five years ago. He manipulated DNA and he was able to extract a very small probe of DNA, which allows to recognise very specific segments of this very long message. I am not going to tell you exactly the trick; of the trade, but when you extract the DNA from cells, you split it with specific enzymes and then you have it migrating in an elctric field, and you use the probe made by JEFFRIES. The result looks very familiar. It is absolutely similar to the bar code that you find on any object in the super market. You know these various lines of different width, separated by different spaces, that a special optic; device will read, feeding the information into the computer. Immediately the computer will tell you the name of the product, the quantity resting in the stock, and the price of the pack. The Jeffries technique tells us just the same thing. On one glance, we will see that those bands are only found in this particular human being. But let us suppose that you have studied the genetic bar code of father and of mother of this child. We will find that each small line characteristic of that baby, half of them come from the father and the other half from the mother. But this combination is unique, as it was unique in the father, as it was unique in mother. Now we know that, at first glance, we can say every human being is unique and even we can have a computer able to read it, exactly like in the super market. In fact our Jeffries bands are a kind of identity card which cannot be falsified at all, that you carry with you all your life, and demonstrate that you are this very person begot by these two persons. But here is something the computer will never read: the price of this person: because human life is priceless. That was understood in the way that you could not buy a human being. Now, unfortunately, some scientists make an enormous mistake, and they suppose that human life is priceless because it has no value. And that happens in countries which have been civilised for generations, but who have recently denied by a vote what all the masters of medicine had always sweraed in all the languages of the world.



And that would be my third wish, that you keep some council with you. Remember, nearly two thousand four hundred years ago, the founder of medicine, Hippocrates, made all his disciples swear "I shall not give a poisonous drugs to anyone, even if required to do so, and I will not suggest such a thing, and I will not give any abortive drug to a pregnant woman". In the same phrase, he said no to euthanasia, no to abortion. And for two thousand four hundred years, all the masters of medicine have given that oath constantly. Having now the demonstration that he was right, telling us every patient must be respected because he is a human being, now there are voices pretending that we have made progress. We can detect very early in utero some pathological conditions directly deleterious for the baby. We can even detect minute difficulties, even dispositions that will appear very late in life. We can, for example, detect the gene of Huntington disease, which is a very severe nervous disease after the age of forty (after forty years of perfectly normal life). We can also detect Alzheimer disease, a very terrible dementia which is genetically transmitted in some cases. That will make the people demented when they reach the age of sixty, after a normal life for fifty nine years.

Now, is it wise, prudent, is it good counsel, to propose to kill the patient because the disease has been detected early: in their life, during the time that they were still inside the womb? I don't think it is good counsel. Indeed, it is a heavy price that every generation has: to pay to diseases. It is a heavy price for the patients in suffering, for the family in enduring and for the society in helping both the patient and the family. But this cost, we can calculate it absolutely exactly. This cost is tree exact price that civilisation has to pay to remain humane.

I am not going to quote the Gnadentod (1) of the Nazis, the Leben unwerten leben . I would quote a much more ancient history. You possibly remember that in Greece, Spartans were killing their babies if they did not look at birth strong enough to be soldiers later or to be women who could carry fitter soldiers later. And those Spartans were the only Greeks giving to humanity no one artist, no one scientist. They have not even left one ruin. And they, were considered by as the most stupid people of the world.

Now, the question as a geneticist is very important. Why did this happen in Greece, where those people were so clever, that one nation got that brute. Two hypothesis are possible. One is that by killing the babies that they were thinking were too frail, too fragile, in fact they were killing their artist and their scientists,and progressively they became dull. That is one hypothesis. I don't know that it is true. The other one is, it is because they were already that dull that they began to kill their own flesh! And between the two it is difficult to choose ; may be both of these hypothesis are simultaneously partially true!



So my fourth wish would be that you have fortitude, because you need fortitude to defend the future of mankind. I must confess that I don't read it very often, but I received in February a copy of Hansart, which is the compte-rendu of the Parliament of this country. I was for me a consolation for the future, that the noble Lord of Norfolk was really the valiant warrior defending the children to come in this country. This lecture of Hansart will show you also, that even the promoter of the experiments on tiny Britons, Lord Walton of Detchant, was obliged to recognise that during the last three years, no achievement in medicine had been made by making use of early human beings. Achievement in all the diseases which had been quoted three years before as requiring experimention on human embryos, (Down Syndrome, Haemophilia, Muscular Dystrophy and Mucoviscidosis) were obtained by science with no one embryo having been at risk by scientists! Nevertheless, those chambers voted in this country that a human being which is not yet fourteen days old is not a British citizen, is, not even a member of our species! It is, for me, unbelievable in the country of JEFFRIES, that such an enormous mistake can be made; very young Britons are offered to vivisection if they don't yet have enjoyed fifteen days of life. If it was true that, after fecondation, a human being is not there, there would never be a human being there. And when reading this inhumane law that early Britons are no longer members of the human species, that they are not here, it comes to me to remember one of your greatest authors, who I will misquote deliberately, that "if what they say is true, there is something rotten in the kingdom of Nowhere".



My fifth wish would be than knowledge be with you. Nearly a year ago I was testifying, thanks to my dear friend, MARTIN PALMER, in Tennessee; Seven embryos were in the fridge but the parents were leaving each other, It was in Maryville; the name of the lady was Mary, and at that time she wanted to rescue her seven hopes who were frozen. The judge had to decide whether they were a good which can be liquidated, or whether they were human beings who should be protected. And he decided that they were not things, because there is not a third category between things and human beings since slavery has been abolished. And then he decided that they must be given to custody and he stated that custody should be given to the parent; who will want the life of the children, and not to the one who wants them to be frozen for ever. It was a judgement of Solomon, and I can tell you, I was very close to the Judge at the end of the deposition. And when he really, directly realised that three thousand years later, he was to judge again like Solomon did, there was just a little water in the eyelids of the justice. And again, the justice has been on the same side as Solomon.

To understand this difficult question of the frozen embryos, let me remember you that time and temperature are the definition of the flux of the reality. If we diminish the temperature, we slow down the movements of the molecules, which is a measure of the time elapsing, and we freeze the time. We don't freeze really the life of the embryo, it is time which is stopped. Then, if temperature comes back, life will manifest itself again. So that I said to the Judge, those frozen embryos, for which the time is arrested, are so to speak in concentration can. a In France they translated concentration camp. A mistake, a double mistake, because a concentration camp is a machine to accelerate terribly death, but a concentration can is a machine to slow down terribly life. But in both cases, concentrationnary state is imposed upon innocents. In a bottle of liquid nitrogen you can put three thousand tiny human beings; if that is not concentration, the word "concentration" has no meaning. What we have to do is not to ask the question whether we are allowed to play with those people concentrated in the concentration can, that is not the question. The real question must be that concentration should be for ever, Strengsten verboten, absolutly forbidden.



To come to the sixth wish (and the seventh will be very short): piety be with you. Piety is a reverence for those who have begotten you. But it is very curious that the filial piety has been of extreme modernity since two years. That was due to a discovery by Sorani in this country. He demonstrated that dad and mum do not transmit exactly the same message to the baby. Because man is, so to speak, underlying some sequence of the DNA on some given points.

Mother does the same, but not at the same points. Such was the fantastic, discovery of Sorani. Nobody believed that before, nobody had predicted it. This "imprinting" is achieved by methylation of one of the bases of DNA, the cytosine. The details would be too technicals, but to understand what it means is very clear ; that is, if an egg was produced with the normal content of chromosomes, but all of them coming from mother with no DNA marked on the male way, this egg is not a human being. It cannot develop itself in a baby. It will just make various tissues, various specialisation of cells. It will make spare-pieces, skin, teeth, nails, hairs, but will not build any person. We call it a dermoïd cyst or a teratoma, a kind of tumor.

As a reverse, if there was only marking of the DNA on the male-wise way, it would not be human being either. It will produce cysts, which look like very much the little plastic bags, it will make a lot of them (we call it hydatiformis mole) even it can degenerate in a cancer (we call it chorioepithelioma). So we know, by the demonstration of this special imprinting of the DNA by each sex, that we need to have one father and one mother to build a human being. That is a kind of scoop in our days, because you read in the newpapers, (it was even said on this stage!), that yoga could manipulate eggs in order to beget between women! That is to take the nucleus of a girl friend and include it inside the egg of a woman, so that the woman will become pregnant from her lesbian partner girl. That hypothesis is not any longer in. It is entirely out. We know from the discovery of Surani that nature will not allow to do that; it would just make a teratoma, a kind of cancer, nothing else. The same for the "gay nightmare" of producing a child by two different males. That is taking out the legitimate nucleus of an egg and putting inside two different sperms from two different men, and implanting it in some uterus to be rented. It would not work. This is an entirely "has been" idea, it would not be possible, it is forbidden by nature. Similarly, a clone taken from a cell of a grown-up, will not be made. Even if you extract the nucleus of a cell and put, it in an egg, it would not become a human being, because it does not have this special imprinting which is only made during the maturation of the male and feminine sexual cells.

So we learn two things: that "honour thy father and thy mother" is really a commandment from God, because nature obeys it. You cannot have two fathers and you cannot have two mothers only; and the second is that you have to "honour thy father and thy mother in order for you life to be long on this earth", because, il you do not have the genetic imprinting from your father and your mother, you will not be conceived at all!



The last gift of the Spirit is Fear. But that fear is not the one that you have when you come in the infernal of Dante. It is written on the door "Those who come here, give up any hope". It is not this kind of fear that I wish you will have, but it is a fear of abandoning the reverence for the Creator, so that; you lose the respect for his creature. Technology is not bad. Even interventions upon the human genome are not to be banned a priori, as long as it is made in the interest of that very person in which it is made.

Every day we are getting more powerful, but not wiser. Then we get more dangerous. One of the dangers, for example, is the abortion pill, the Ru486. It is the first anti-human pesticide. It uses two different drugs. It is a binary ammunition of chemical warfare. One, poison, the anti progesteron paralyses the system which allows the baby to be nourished by the mother, and the other a prostaglandine expels the baby. This binary ammunition should be forbidden in the world. Did you know that Mr Bush and Mr Gorbachev have agreed to destroy the stockpile of chemical warfare that they had in their countries? I tell you, these deadly pills are used; if produced industrially, thy will kill every year more human beings that Hitler, Mao Tse Tung and Stalin reunited.

The fear I am wishing for you was expressed in an old saying in Latin. It said, "Timete Dominum et Nihil Aliud"; that means "Nave fear of the Lord and of nothing else". That is the true liberty of the Spirit. And we need it absolutly, because in the years to come, Science With Conscience will be necessary to avoid the ruin of man.



(1) mercy killing.