WASHINGTON, D.C., April 29, 2011 ( – A federal appeals court has overturned a district judge’s ruling that said the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) could not conduct embryo-destroying stem-cell research with federal funds under federal law.


The 2-1 decision from the D.C. Court of Appeals strikes down U.S. District Chief Judge Royce Lamberth’s August 23, 2010 decision, which declared the NIH was barred by the 1996 Dickey-Wicker amendment from funding further embryo-destroying research.

Lamberth said Dickey-Wicker was “unambiguous” in its intent to prevent federal dollars from assisting in the creation or the destruction of human embryos “for research purposes.” Lamberth’s order nullified President Barack Obama’s executive order allowing the NIH to fund up to 75 new lines of stem cells derived from human embryos, which are killed by researchers harvesting their stem cells.

Today’s decision disagrees, saying that “Dickey-Wicker is ambiguous” and that the NIH “seems reasonably to have concluded” that they can engage in embryonic stem cell research without falling afoul of the federal law.

The White House welcomed the ruling. “Responsible stem cell research has the potential to treat some of our most devastating diseases and conditions and offers hope to families across the country and around the world,” said spokesman Nick Papas.

Dr. David Prentice, Family Research Council’s Senior Fellow for Life Sciences, however, said the appeals court had merely green-lighted the NIH to violate federal law and use taxpayer dollar to fund hESC research.

“As the dissenting opinion by Justice Henderson noted, the logic for the current decision is a case of ‘linguistic jujitsu’ rather than straightforward interpretation of the law,” said Prentice. “Human embryonic stem cell research relies on the destruction of young human embryos as experimental fodder.

“In the meantime, thousands of patients are alive and have improved health after treatments using adult stem cells, including for spinal cord injury, heart damage, blindness, and dozens of other conditions. Federal taxpayer funds should go towards helping patients first, not unethical experiments.”

The lawsuit against the NIH funding of embryonic stem cell research was filed by two scientists involved in adult stem cell research, Drs. James Sherley of Boston and Theresa Deisher of Seattle, and Nightlight Christian Adoptions, which helps couples adopt human embryos stored in fertility clinics.

Sherly and Deisher both sued claiming that President Barack Obama’s order meant the NIH was favoring scientists involved in human embryonic stem-cell (hESC) research, starving other scientists involved in ethical adult stem cell research from receiving grants.

The case is Sherley v. Sebelius, 10-5287, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.


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