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Stem cell ruling will be appealed

The US Department of Justice has said it will appeal a ruling that taxpayers' money may not fund medical research involving human embryonic stem cells

The US Department of Justice has said it intends to move this week to appeal a federal judge's ruling that taxpayers' money may not be used to fund medical research involving human embryonic stem cells (ESC).

The temporary injunction, issued by US District Judge Royce Lamberth of Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, states that a lawsuit filed against the government by a coalition of prolife groups including Nightlight Christian Adoptions and the Christian Medical Association is likely to succeed and that the funding must therefore be put on hold while the litigation proceeds. 

"Plaintiffs have established that the preliminary injunction factors—the likelihood of success on the merits, irreparable injury, the balance of hardships, and the public interest—weigh in favour of a preliminary injunction,” the judge wrote.

The suit charges that all federal funding of research involving human embryonic stem cells is prohibited by the 1996 Dickey-Wicker amendment, which bars the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from funding research which involves the destruction of a human embryo. The Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations have all interpreted the amendment as not being applicable to research using existing stem cell lines originally created from embryos using private funding.

However, the federal judge disagreed, stating in his ruling: "The Dickey-Wicker Amendment is unambiguous. It prohibits research in which a human embryo is destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subject to risk of injury or death greater than that allowed under applicable regulations. The (Obama administration) guidelines violate that prohibition by allowing federal funding of ESC research because ESC research depends up on the destruction of a human embryo."

The ruling, which blocks an executive order issued last year by Obama that expanded funding for stem cell research, could have a profound effect on studies being carried out in hopes of curing a range of diseases, including Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and diabetes.
The National Institutes of Health, which receives its funding through HHS, has told its researchers that no additional funds will be provided for the studies until the matter is resolved, although the scientists are so far being permitted to keep the funding that has already been distributed.

Biotechnology Industry Organization president and CEO Jim Greenwood said that the injunction "casts a dark cloud of uncertainty, for the moment, on promising ESC research."

"Each day we wait for the judicial process to play out is a day lost for patients and their families," Greenwood added. "As we have previously said, researchers should pursue all areas of stem cell research in the search for new therapies and cures…We hope the judicial process moves quickly to clear this uncertainty to permit federally funded ESC research to move forward again. Millions of patients are waiting."

25th August 2010

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