In her June 5 letter about Jerome Groopman's May 29 op-ed, "Beware of Stem Cell Theology," Cindy Carter said: "Even if we accept that these [Jewish and Muslim] interpretations [about "ensoulment" in the Old Testament] are correct, . . . an embryo can never become ensouled if it is killed. So . . . destroying an embryo is destroying a human organism."

Until Pope Pius IX issued "Apostolicae Sedis" in 1869, the Catholic Church thought ensoulment occurred 40 days after conception for males and 80 days for females. Exodus 21:22-23 states that the "fruit" of "a woman with child" has less value than "any mischief" that follows.

Ms. Carter seems to be drawing a new line in the sand of life regarding human organisms, which by definition include eggs and spermatozoa. Does she think each egg and spermatozoon is an endangered "innocent human life" deserving legal protections?

DAVID J. MALAN

O'Fallon, Mo.

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Cindy Carter said that the Sixth Commandment forbids taking an innocent life. She also said that Jerome Groopman misstated the Torah idea of ensoulment.

In Hebrew, the Sixth Commandment says, "You will not Murder," not "You will not Kill." Even if an embryo were considered a life, which Judaism rejects, especially before the 40 days Mr. Groopman mentioned, to end its existence is not murder, which is a criminal act.

Further, given that all of this opinion is religiously based, it is irrelevant to U.S. law.

DAVID S. SCHWARTZMAN

Rockville