Tuesday 7 September 2010

Congratulations to James Sherley for helping stall funding for embryonic stem cell research

Last week a US court granted a temporary injunction which halts US federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The team which obtained the injunction was led by Dr James Sherley, a stem cell expert and a colleague of SPUC. Most interestingly in the ruling was the judge's statement that
"It is not certain whether ESC research will result in new and successful treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease."
This statement, and the ruling itself, is a refreshing victory for innocent human life and true ethical science.

Daniel Blackman, who researches international affairs for SPUC, has written the following summary of the case:
"Dr. James L. Sherley is a biological engineer at Boston Biomedical Research Institute. In October 2009 Dr Sherley and Dr Theresa Deisher, together with a legal team consisting of: Advocates International , Alliance Defense Fund, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Nightlight Christian Adoptions, and the Christian Medical Association, brought a case against, the US Department of Health and Human Services and the National Insititutes of Health ‘Guidelines for Human Stem Cell Research’ (July 2009). The National Institutes of Health (NIH), is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research. The head of the Department of Health is Kathleen Sebelius.

"The Guidelines came about because on March 9, 2009, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13505, overturning the virtual ban on embryonic stem cell research put in place by the Balanced Budget Downpayment Act (Dickey-Wicker Amendment 1994), which stated no federal funds would be used for creation, experimentation, and destruction of human embryos. In 2001, former president George W. Bush allowed federal funds to be used to fund research on human embryonic stem cells that was deemed to be non-destructive. With President Obama’s executive order, president Bush’s exception for destructive embryonic research was overruled.

"However, the case failed in 2009 on its first attempt. Dr. Sherley and team then successfully appealed. Dr. Sherley’s case argued that the Guidelines were unconstitutional. They contravended the Dickey-Wicker amendment and the exemption put in place by president Bush. The key argument put forward by Dr. Sherley and the legal team is this: extracting and experimenting on embryonic stem cells cannot be separated from the destruction of embryonic stem cells. As such, all embryonic stem cell research is destructive. This would mean that no federal funds should be used for any embryonic stem cell research.

"On August 23rd 2010, Royce C. Lamberth, Chief Judge of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, approved the case against the guidelines. This means that all funding of embryonic stem cell research has for the time being been stopped. The injunction has forced the National Institutes of Health to freeze funding for about 50 embryonic stem cell research proposals. Also included are 22 proposals in line for a total of $54 million in funding.

"On 27th August 2010, Sebelius and her legal team submitted a plea to appeal. They have also submitted an emergency plea to stay (hold-off) the ban on funding. They argue that the Dickey-Wicker amendment can be interpreted in other ways, that embryonic stem cell research will result in cures for all sorts of diseases, that the work of many researchers has been disrupted, that public interest is not being served by banning funding for this research and the list goes on.

"This case is very important. A legal team of experts are taking the Department of Health to court. If Sebelius is successful, government funding for embryonic stem cell research will continue and increase, as seen from the numbers above.

"However, if Dr. Sherley and team are successful, the executive order of Obama, and the guidelines, will be defunct. However, Dr. Sherley will be doing even more. If successful, the federal funding on embryonic stem cell research permitted by George W. Bush in 2001 will also be stopped. This is due to the key argument that you cannot separate the extraction and research on embryonic stem cells from the destruction of the embryo."

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