Research involving stem cells lines derived from human embryos won’t resume, after a federal judge denied a U.S. Justice Dept. request to stay a ban on federal funding of the projects.
Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia declined to stay a decision that funding of the research, which President Barack Obama had sought to restore from constraints imposed under the Bush administration. Lamberth ruled that Obama’s stem cell funding policy violated the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which was aimed at stopping the destruction of human embryos.
Obama’s policy allowed the use of stem cell lines derived from frozen embryos from fertility treatments that were no longer needed and donated according to stringent ethical guidelines. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, James Sherley and Theresa Deisher, argued that the Obama policy violated the Dickey-Wicker rules.
Lamberth agreed, ruling that the Dickey-Wicker rule clearly bans federal funding of research using ESC-derived lines because “the language of the statute reflects the unambiguous intent of Congress to enact a broad prohibition of funding research in which a human embryo is destroyed,” according to court documents.
In its motion to stay Lamberth’s decision pending an appeal, the Justice Dept. argued that the ban is an irreparable blow to research that "holds great promise for the development of treatments for a wide range of serious and life-threatening diseases and conditions," according to court documents.
"Research into the unique properties of stem cells may lead to major medical breakthroughs that would offer hope to people suffering from cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, spinal cord injuries, neurodegenerative conditions, and many other disorders," wrote Dr. Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health, in an affidavit filed as part of the government’s motion to stay.
"Defendants are incorrect about much of their ‘parade of horribles’ that will supposedly result from this Court’s preliminary injunction," Lamberth retorted in his brief maintaining the ban. "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."