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10/23/2007

Frozen embryos get some colorful representation in court

Via Art Caplan and BioEdge comes this item by Wired’s Kristen Philipkoski about a lawyer who has filed suit on behalf of a frozen embryo. Martin Palmer is suing California Institute of Regenerative Medicine chairman Robert Klein on the argument that the use of embryos for embryonic stem cell research violates the 13th and 14th amendments of the US Constitution (that would be the prohibition against slavery and equal protection under the law, respectively).

There was a hearing to decide the appropriate venue for the case last week and it seems to have been quite the scene. From a KNBC-TV report:

In Tuesday’s hearing, Palmer started his argument by paraphrasing the Bible.

“In the beginning there was a message and that message is life,” he said, then later quoted the New Testament’s Gospel according to John.

“Your argument is quite eloquent but it’s not addressing why we’re here today,” said Judge Kim Wardlaw.

Undeterred, Palmer sought to liken Doe’s situation to the plight of slaves before the Civil War. The choice of the name “Scott” is a deliberate reference to Dred Scott, the slave who in 1857 lost a lawsuit aimed to win his freedom, Palmer said.

“Have embryos been enslaved?” [Judge] Fernandez asked.

Palmer replied they had, and added that California was “abandoning its heritage” because it was admitted into the Union as a free state in 1850.

When Fernandez pressed Palmer on exactly what injury Doe suffered, he finally said: “We’re seeking to invalidate Proposition 71 on its face.”

Palmer then accused the defendants of ignoring the issue of the morality of stem-cell research by focusing on the legal issue of venue.

Apparently this exchange was later followed by Palmer scattering rose petals and the judge rolling her eyes.

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