Court Lifts Ban on Federal Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding
On Friday, a federal appeals court lifted an injunction issued by a lower court that prohibited federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, the New York Times reports. The decision, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, sends the original case back to Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth of Federal District Court in Washington, D.C. (Harris, New York Times, 4/29).
Background on Case
The original case was filed by two researchers -- Theresa Deisher and James Sherley -- after the Obama administration in 2009 reversed earlier prohibitions on embryonic stem cell research. The researchers, who use only adult stem cells, argued that federal funding of embryonic stem cell research violated the 1996 Dickey-Wicker Amendment. According to the Washington Post, that amendment bans government funded "research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded or knowingly subjected to risk or injury or death greater than that allowed for research on fetuses in utero" (Quentin Wilber, Washington Post, 4/29).
Lamberth in August 2010 issued an immediate ban on federal spending on such research in anticipation that the administration would lose the case. The government appealed that decision, and the appeals court stopped the ban from going into effect while it reviewed the case (New York Times, 4/29).
The appeals court, in a 2-1 decision, agreed with the government on technical grounds. Judge Douglas Ginsburg wrote in the majority opinion that the law uses the present tense, which "strongly suggests it does not extend to past actions," including the prior destruction of embryos (Washington Post, 4/29).
He added that "although Dickey-Wicker bars funding for the destructive act of deriving an [embryonic stem cell] from an embryo, it does not prohibit funding a research project in which an ESC will be used" (Bunis, CQ HealthBeat, 4/29).
Mixed Reactions to Ruling
Francis Collins, director of NIH, said, "This is a momentous day not only for science but for the hopes of thousands of patients and their families who are relying on NIH-funded scientists to pursue life-saving discoveries and therapies that could come from stem cell research."
David Prentice of the Family Research Council said he was disappointed with the ruling, adding, "Federal taxpayer funds should go towards helping patients first, not unethical experiments" (New York Times, 4/29).
Headlines and links to more coverage on reactionÂ to the stem cell funding rulingÂ from California groups are provided below.
- "UCSF Scientists Praise Decision on Broader Federal Funding for Stem Cell Research" (Contra Costa Times, 4/30).
- "Appeals Court Lifts Ban on Federal Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding" (Leuty, Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal, 4/29).