Federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research legal

1 August 2011

The legal challenge to US government funding for human embryonic stem (HES) cell research has been rejected by a judge.
Adult stem cell researchers claimed that such funding diverted National Institutes of Health (NIH) resources away from adult stem cell research and created an incentive for the further destruction of human embryos to meet increasing demands for HES cell lines.
Last year US District Judge Royce Lamberth placed an injunction on federal funding for HES cell research on the grounds that it violated the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, a legal prohibition of federal funding for research that involves the destruction of embryos (see previous news). This was injunction was overturned by the Court of Appeals earlier this year (see previous news).
Now, Judge Lamberth has dismissed the current legal case saying that he is obliged to accept the court’s decision that the Dickey-Wicker Amendment was not applicable for research using HES cell lines provided that the original research that created the cell lines (involving the destruction of human embryos) was not federally funded.
NIH director Francis Collins said that: “This ruling will help ensure this groundbreaking research can continue to move forward”, but the lawyer for the plaintiffs Stephen Aden of the Alliance Defense Fund said: "Americans should not be forced to pay for experiments that destroy human life, have produced no real-world treatments, and violate federal law”, adding that they would consider appealing,

Comment: This decision signals another victory for supporters of HES cell research, but since the law remains open to interpretation, there is scope for another reversal in the event of an appeal. While public opinion remains divided over the ethics of medical research to relieve suffering on the one hand, and the commodification of human embryos on the other, there appears to be no compromise. 

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