A delightful introduction to Dr. Jérôme Lejeune
By Dave Andrusko
I confess I did not know nearly as much as I should have about Dr. Jérôme Lejeune until he testified in “Davis v. Davis,” a 1989 custody dispute involving seven human embryos who had not been implanted and were in a frozen condition.
Sure, I knew he had discovered the genetic cause of Down syndrome in 1958. And I knew he was fiercely pro-life and the recipient of numerous awards from presidents and popes.
But it wasn’t until I read everything I possibly could about the Tennessee trial that pitted Mary Sue David against her soon to be ex-husband Junior Lewis David that I came to understand how brilliantly persuasive Dr. Lejeune could be.
Testifying as an expert witness, he described these little one as “tiny human beings deprived of time.” He drew brilliant analogies and metaphors. My favorite was the cassette (remember, this is 1989):
“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.”
By the end of the trial, Judge W. Dale Young concluded, “Cryogenically preserved embryos are human beings…. Human embryos are not property. Human life begins at conception. Mr. and Mrs. Davis have produced human beings, in vitro, to be known as their child or children.”
I mention all this a friend emailed me new about a 2:41 second long video which highlights the life and work of Dr. Lejeune found at www.youtube.com/watch?v=jt9o4JPibBI&feature=em-uploademail. It offers a touching introduction and includes at the bottom information about how to learn more about this geneticist (www.friendsoflejeune.org, and www.lejeuneusa.org).
Do yourself a favor and learn about a great man who encapsulated a profound truism in three sentences: “After fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being. [It] is no longer a matter of taste or opinion…it is plain experimental evidence. Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception.”