Scientists Behind Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding Lawsuit Oppose Appeal

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 6, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Scientists Behind Embryonic Stem Cell Research Funding Lawsuit Oppose Appeal

by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 6
, 2010

Washington, DC ( — The two adult stem cell researchers behind the lawsuit against the executive order President Barack Obama issued to force taxpayers to fund embryonic stem cell research are blasting his administration’s decision to appeal a judge’s order stopping the funding.

U.S. district court Judge Royce Lamberth granted a preliminary injunction against the funding.

It came in response to a lawsuit filed by stem cell researchers who said the Obama executive order and subsequent funding from the National Institutes of Health violated the Dickey amendment, the federal law prohibiting funding the destruction of human embryos via research.

Obama officials appealed Judge Lamberth’s decision and asked to put the injunction on hold so taxpayer dollars can continue to flow to embryonic stem cell research projects while the lawsuit against the order moves ahead.

Dr. James L. Sherley, a former member of the MIT faculty now currently working as a senior scientist at the Boston Biomedical Research Institute and Dr. Theresa Deisher, the founder of AVM Biotechnology were the two scientists behind the lawsuit.

Speaking through their attorney, Samuel B. Casey, the general counsel of the pro-life legal group, Advocates International, the pair filed their opposing memorandum of law and evidentiary declarations against the appeal and the request for the injunction to be lifted.

In their opposition, the scientists notified the court that they intend to file a motion for summary judgment, seeking a permanent injunction against the taxpayer funding of embryonic stem cell research to be issued by the end of this week.

Casey explained plaintiffs’ opposition to the stay request, stating that "the government’s claims of irreparable harm absent a stay rest on speculation, misinformation, and hyperbole."

"At every turn, the government presents this case as a choice between spending federal dollars on human embryonic stem cell research — funding that the district court has previously determined has only speculative benefits and violates federal law against killing or discarding living human embryos — or nothing at all," he told

Casey added: "To the contrary, the preliminary injunction frees up millions in limited grant dollars that the National Institutes of Health can now award to projects that promise more tangible medical benefits, raise fewer ethical issues, and comport with the law, including adult and induced pluripotent stem cell research."

Thomas Hungar, lead trial counsel for the scientists who argued the case before Judge Lamberth, said he was "gratified that the Court agreed with our plain-language reading of the Dickey-Wicker statute."

Since 1996, in what has been popularly known as its Dickey-Wicker Amendment to each HHS Appropriations Bill, Congress has expressly banned NIH from funding research in which human embryos "are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death."

"Congress has forbidden federal funding of research that entails the destruction of human embryos, and rather than seek a stay the NIH needs to start complying with the law," Hungar said.

The scientists contend the executive order and NIH guidelines implementing it violate the congressional ban because they "necessarily condition funding on the destruction of human embryos."

They also allege the NIH guidelines were invalidly implemented, because the decision to fund human embryonic stem cell research was made without the proper procedures required by law and without properly considering the more effective and less ethically problematic forms of adult and induced pluripotent stem cell research.

Deisher, one of the scientists, says NIH director Francis Collins has issued a declaration paper to the court that misleads about the science behind the debate between adult and embryonic stem cells.

She said Collins’ declaration "contains numerous factual assertions and characterizations regarding the nature of and prospects for adult stem research, human embryonic stem cell research, and induced pluripotent stem cell research that are directly contrary to the evidence in the administrative record, and that do not accurately reflect the published literature on those subjects."


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