Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A stay on government funding for Embryonic Stem Cell research

Perhaps some of you missed this important decision in the US DC District Court.  A suit was filed 

"... for declaratory and injunctive relief to prevent defendants’ Guidelines for Human Stem Cell Research (“Guidelines”) from taking effect. (Compl.¶¶ 4, 6-12.) Specifically, plaintiffs sought “an order (a) declaring that the Guidelines are contrary to law, were promulgated without observing the procedures required by law, and constitute arbitrary and capricious agency action; and (b) enjoining [d]efendants from applying the Guidelines or otherwise funding research involving the destruction of human embryonic stem cells.”

This is important since this may have an effect as well on the abortion issue, one way or the other.

The court found that any procedure to derive stem cells from embryos will mean the destruction of the embryos.  There exists a law that prohibits federal funding for research that will cause the destruction of embryos.  President Obama issued an executive order that would give federal funding to ESC research.  The court's decision will prevent that EO from giving money to ESC research.  Well and good.  The US administration will of course appeal the decision.

Private funding for ESC research is not included in the court's decision.

Some portions of the decision:

ESC research is clearly research in which an embryo is destroyed. To conduct ESC research, ESCs must be derived from an embryo. The process of deriving ESCs from an embryo results in the destruction of the embryo. Thus, ESC research necessarily depends upon the destruction of a human embryo.

Despite defendants’ attempt to separate the derivation of ESCs from research on the ESCs, the two cannot be separated. Derivation of ESCs from an embryo is an integral step in conducting ESC research. Indeed, it is just one of many steps in the “systematic investigation” of stem cell research. 45 C.F.R. § 46.102(d). Simply because ESC research involves multiple steps does not mean that each step is a separate “piece of research” that may be federally funded, provided the step does not result in the destruction of an embryo. If one step or “piece of research” of an ESC research project results in the destruction of an embryo, the entire project is precluded from receiving federal funding by the Dickey-Wicker Amendment. Because ESC research requires the derivation of ESCs, ESC research is research in which an embryo is destroyed. Accordingly, the Court concludes that, by allowing federal funding of ESC research, the Guidelines are in violation of the Dickey-Wicker Amendment.

In sum, plaintiffs have demonstrated a strong likelihood of success on the merits. 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 Guidelines violate that prohibition by allowing federal funding of ESC research because ESC research depends up on the destruction of a human embryo.

Full text of the decision here.

1 comment:

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