American Society of Hematology

Opponents of Embryonic Stem Cell Research File Supreme Court Appeal

Published on: October 12, 2012

Plaintiffs seeking to stop the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from funding embryonic stem cell research filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court on October 11, asking the Court to order the Obama administration and the NIH to stop funding human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research.

The plaintiffs, two scientists who argued that President Obama's expansion of federally-funded hESC  research jeopardized their ability to win government funding for research using adult stem cells (ones that have already matured to create specific types of tissues) because it will mean extra competition, are asking the Court to consider two questions that were raised when a federal appeals court ruled against them in August. One is whether the appeals court should have relied on its own earlier, split decision finding that federally funded hESC research doesn't violate the 1996 Dickey-Wicker law that prohibits taxpayer financing for work that harms an embryo.

The second question is whether the appeals court should have agreed that the NIH could ignore thousands of comments opposing hESC research when the agency issued guidelines in July 2009 implementing an executive order from President Barack Obama lifting restrictions on the research that were put in place during the Bush Administration.

The Court will likely decide whether to take the case before its term ends in June. In the meantime, federal funding will continue to be available for hESC 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. Earlier in this case, ASH, as a member of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR), the nation's most vocal proponent of the use of regenerative medicine to cure disease, filed an amicus curiae brief in support of continued federal funding of embryonic 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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