Judge Rejects Lawsuit Against Federal Funding for Stem Cell Research
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth dismissed a lawsuit alleging that federal funding of embryonic stem cell research was in violation of a 1996 federal law, the AP/Washington Post reports (AP/Washington Post, 7/27).
Background on Lawsuit
The original case was filed by two researchers -- Theresa Deisher and James Sherley -- after the Obama administration in 2009 reversed 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, which 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."
In August 2010, Lamberth 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 U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit stopped the ban from going into effect while it reviewed the case. In April, the court in a 2-1 decision supported the administration's position, sending the case back to Lamberth for review (California Healthline, 5/2).
Details of Recent Opinion
In his opinion on Wednesday, Lamberth said that he is bound by the appeals court's interpretation of the law and found that the "defendants reasonably interpreted the Dickey-Wicker Amendment to permit funding for human embryonic stem cell research because such research is not 'research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed'" (AP/Washington Post, 7/27).
On the White House blog, Stephanie Cutter -- an assistant to the president and deputy senior adviser -- called the ruling "another step in the right direction."
Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) said "the lawsuit's impact over the past year demonstrated once again how political gamesmanship can suddenly interrupt the path of stem cell discovery" (Epstein, Politico, 7/27).
DeGette said she would continue to push for a bill (HR 2376) that would codify the Obama administration's guidelines and place ethical restrictions on research using embryonic stem cells. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) is pursuing companion legislation in the Senate (Ethridge, CQ Today, 7/27).
Deisher and Sherley can appeal Lamberth's ruling. The Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative organization involved in the case, said in a statement that the group was "weighing all of their options for appeal" (Brown, Los Angeles Times, 7/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.