Conceived in step sibling incest.
Summary Remarks of Russell
E. Saltzman, Pastor of Ruskin
Heights Lutheran Church,
Kansas City, MO
Before the U.S. Senate
on Labor, Health and Human
Services, and Education,
September 14, 2000
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and
Senators, for the opportunity to
appear before this subcommittee
this morning. I count it as a
privilege. I once worked for a
Member of Congress and I know
the energy and the time you
bring to this work and how difficult
your decisions sometimes are, and
you are to be thanked for your efforts.
I am here as a person with diabetes to testify against the use of
human embryonic stem cell research. But I shall first reveal
something of myself. I am the adopted child of Harry and Lola
Saltzman, my parents who live yet in the home where I was raised in
Since I am an adopted child, you might guess, accurately, that the
circumstances of my conception were not ideal. In the summer of
1946, I was an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy. My birth parents
were members of the same family. In fact they were step-siblings.
Very possibly my conception was the result not only of step-sibling
incest, but step-sibling rape.
There is no question in my mind - given the circumstances current
these days - that my birth mother would have been urged to accept
abortion and very likely would have sought one as the means of
solving the dilemma I represented. I am unable to look at abortion in
any light except those of my origin. When I say that appearing here
is a privilege, I hope I also convey my sense of the miraculous, for
had my conception occurred after 1972, I would not be here at all.
And suddenly it comes to mind that - having been aborted - the fetal
parts that were once me might have become research material for
somebody's investigation into the very disease I have come here to
So at the outset, I say it is a terrible thing we undertake in these
discussions, not only because the matter touches me so personally,
but also because I know our common origin, the base humanity that
links us one to another, whatever our stage of development or
maturity. We all once sprang from an act of union between egg and
sperm. We all once were human embryos. We all once were fetuses
quickening in our mothers' wombs. We are all, each, human life. We
may hope that all of us were conceived in love, but in my case that
matters not at all. Whether I was conceived in love or in violence,
what is important for me is the fact that I am here in the first place.
My existence by itself has some considerable consequence for other
people, not least for my seven children, two of whom are adopted.
I suffer from diabetes. Since my diagnosis in 1995, I have learned
that the burden of a chronic illness is a real burden. I have
experienced the progression of this illness from a time when simple
diet alterations controlled it, to the point now where I am completely
insulin-dependent. It is the chronic part that constitutes the real
burden, knowing I shall never be rid of it, knowing my life will always
be governed by diet and injection schedules, and knowing, too, that
my death probably will be the result of some diabetic complication.
When I say I wish I did not have it, I am saying there is almost
anything I would do to get rid of it. Almost.
The prospect of stem cell therapy derived from human embryonic
research - involving the destruction of a human embryo - touches me
in a most profound way. I would never consent to any treatment for
my diabetes that directly or indirectly came about as the result of
destroying a human embryo. What I find disturbing about this
incessant rush to harvest stem cells from embryos is the fact that no
researcher to date has been able to develop a pancreatic cell from
the techniques presently used, this while there are several promising
avenues of research that do not involve destruction of a human
Most recently, I have learned about investigations by Canadian
researchers that employed pancreatic islet cells from cadavers. The
technique successfully eliminated insulin-dependence of several
diabetics who received the procedure. The procedure is subject to
further trials and it must be nuanced in application. But this holds
greater promise for a diabetic cure than anything else I have heard
about - and islet cell transplant is ethically neutral. It has no moral
implications associated with it. Yet, we here in the United States
seem in a rush to use what is arguably the most ethically
objectionable method available, while other morally neutral medical
technologies virtually are at hand. The President's own National
Bioethics Advisory Commission has said that because human
embryos deserve respect as a developing form of human life,
destroying them "is justifiable only if no less morally problematic
alternatives are available for advancing research." The fact is, those
It comes to a question. Is the human embryo human life, or is it a
mere bit of research material? If it is mere research material, then
why should any human life at any stage of development - yours or
mine - carry any special privilege? But if the embryo is human life,
then we should have in place some restraint that cautions the strong
against using the weak for their own purposes.
I would commend to your reading Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.
Written in 1933 Huxley, with astonishing prophetic foresight, created
a world of genetic clones and what he called "decanted babies." All
this arose because in the world of his novel, the human embryo was
merely research material. He worried that science was being twisted
all around. Where once, as with the sabbath, science was made for
Man, he foresaw a time when Man would be made for science. In
Huxley's fictionalized world the process that turned science around
was methodical and deliberate, and without moral regard. In our own
world, the process going on is less tidy but no less deliberate, and, I
fear, with equally little moral regard.
If a cure for diabetes and a host of other ailments require the
production and destruction of human embryos, then I beg you to
consider the possibility that some diseases are better than their cure.
-- Russell E. Saltzman