Wednesday September 8, 2010

Federal Judge Denies Obama Embryo Research Appeal

By Peter J. Smith

WASHINGTON, D.C., Sept. 8, 2010 ( – A federal judge has denied the U.S. Justice Department’s request to stay his order stopping the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) embryo-destroying stem-cell research, dismissing their allegations that scientific research over the past decade would be irreparably harmed.

“Defendants are incorrect about much of their ‘parade of horribles’ that will supposedly result from this Court’s preliminary injunction,” stated Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in a three-page order.

Lamberth ruled August 23 that human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research projects funded by the NIH violate an “unambiguous” U.S. statute, the Dickey-Wicker amendment, which prohibits federal dollars from going to research that destroys human embryos.

The Justice Department filed an emergency motion last Tuesday with Lamberth contending that if he did not lift the preliminary injunction, pending their appeal to the D.C. Court of Appeals, then “irreparable harm” would occur if NIH “is forced to cease all activities pertaining to [hESC] research that is subject to government funding.”

Written testimony from NIH head Dr. Francis Collins stated that $546 million dollars had been invested by the NIH in hESC research since 2002, and that $54 million to 24 research projects will be prevented by Lamberth’s order. Collins said that the injunction would mean the whole effort since 2002 “will have been wasted” by stopping experiments and research prematurely.

However Lamberth emphatically stated that, “In this Court’s view, a stay would flout the will of Congress, as this Court understands what Congress has enacted in the Dickey-Wicker Amendment.”

“Congress remains perfectly free to amend or revise the statute. This Court is not free to do so.”

Congress attempted to pass a bill permitting funding of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research in 2007, but that legislation was vetoed by President George W. Bush.

In March 2009, President Barack Obama issued an executive order rescinding President Bush’s executive order that limited federal funds to hESC lines already in existence, giving the green light to finance the creation of new hESC lines and trials with federal dollars.

In response to Obama’s order, two scientists involved in adult stem cell research, Drs. James Sherley of Boston and Theresa Deisher of Seattle, sued the Obama Administration on the basis that the NIH was favoring hESC researchers, starving ethical researchers such as themselves for grants.

The attorneys litigating the case against the NIH are Advocates International, Alliance Defense Fund, and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.

Thomas G. Hungar, GD&C’s lead trial counsel for the plaintiffs, said he was “gratified” by Lamberth’s recent decision. “As the Court recognized, ‘the public interest is served by preventing taxpayer funding of [such] research,’ so that taxpayer funds can be preserved for more productive research that will actually yield cures, such as ‘activities related solely to adult or induced pluripotent stem cell research.’”

“If one step…of an ESC [embryonic stem cell] research project results in the destruction of an embryo, the entire project is precluded from receiving federal funding by the Dickey-Wicker Amendment,” Lamberth wrote in his preliminary injunction order. “Because ESC research requires the derivation of ESCs, ESC research is research in which an embryo is destroyed.”

As a result of Lamberth’s injunction, NIH says it has cut off funding to its eight “intra-mural” hESC research projects. The NIH has also suspended all applications to hESC researchers requesting funding.

See previous coverage by

Obama Justice Dept Seeks Stay of Order Nixing NIH Embryonic Stem Cell Funding

Congressmen Seek to Undermine Embryonic Stem Cell Ruling by Changing Law

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