American Society of Hematology

Appeal Filed in Lawsuit Challenging NIH Funding of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Published on: September 21, 2011

The plaintiffs in a lawsuit (Sherley v. Sebelius) challenging federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research have filed an appeal seeking to overturn a July ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissing the lawsuit.

The lawsuit in question was brought against the federal government in 2010 by two researchers who claimed they could be harmed by the Obama Administration's decision to allow federal funding of embryonic stem cell research since they worked exclusively with adult stem cells and would face increased competition for federal financing under the new policy. Following nearly a year of court proceedings that left a cloud of uncertainty over the future of federally funded embryonic stem cell research, Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the case in July after finding that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding embryonic stem cell research did not violate a ban on federal money being used to destroy embryos.

The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR), an advocacy group supporting the use of regenerative medicine to cure disease, of which ASH is a member, released the following statement in response to the filing of the appeal:

"In what is clearly yet another attempt to play politics, both Plaintiffs in Sherley v. Sebelius filed notice today to appeal their case in the U.S. Court of Appeals. This is a huge disservice not only to the scientific community whose research is advancing us toward better treatments and cures, but completely ignorant of the needs of the patient community -- the 100 million Americans who suffer from cancer. . . and so many other debilitating diseases and disorders for which stem cell research shows great promise."

The next step in the process is for the D.C. Circuit Court to establish a briefing and oral argument schedule. In the meantime, federal funding continues to be available for human embryonic stem cell research and additional stem cell lines continue to be approved and added to the NIH Human Embryonic Stem Cell Registry.

ASH has been an active leader supporting stem cell research. The Society was one of the first physician organizations to support embryonic stem cell research, and ASH has issued a policy in support of all avenues of stem cell research. The Society strongly supports federal funding for all avenues of stem cell research under NIH federal research guidelines and with appropriate public oversight.

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