July 28, 2011

Stem Cell Funding Lawsuit Dismissed

A US district court judge has dismissed a lawsuit which had temporarily blocked federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, various media outlets reported on Wednesday.

"The decision, from Judge Royce C. Lamberth, threw out a 2009 lawsuit challenging an Obama administration policy expanding funding for the research, which had been limited under President George W. Bush," Eryn Brown of the Los Angeles Times reported.

"The plaintiffs, researchers Dr. James Sherley and Theresa Deishler, argued that funding embryonic stem cell research violated federal law," she added.

Lamberth had previously ruled in their favor, and in August 2010 issued a temporary injunction to stop the research while the case moved forward.

That injunction was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals a few weeks later, Brown said. In his ruling Wednesday, Lamberth wrote that he was deferring to that court's decision on the matter, ruling, according to James Vicini of Reuters, that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines on stem cell research did not a 1996 federal law.

"Today, patients suffering from diseases like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and heart disease and their families got good news when a federal judge ruled in favor of the government in a lawsuit challenging the Obama Administration's work to support stem cell research," White House Deputy Senior Advisor Stephanie Cutter wrote in a blog entry following the verdict.

"For too long, patients and families have suffered from debilitating, incurable diseases and we know that stem cell research offers hope to millions of Americans across the country. President Obama is committed to supporting responsible stem cell research and today's ruling was another step in the right direction," she added.

According to AFP Reporter Kerry Sheridan, NIH Director Francis Collins released a statement saying that the organization was "pleased" with Lamberth's ruling.

"We are pleased with today's ruling. Responsible stem cell research has the potential to develop new treatments and ultimately save lives," Collins said. "This ruling will help ensure this groundbreaking research can continue to move forward."

Likewise, American Association for the Advancement of Science Chief Executive Alan Leshner applauded the move, telling Sheridan, "The scientific consensus is that embryonic stem cell research is an extremely promising approach to developing more effective diagnostics and treatments for devastating conditions such as diabetes, spinal cord injuries and Parkinson's disease."

The defense team told Reuters that they are considering an appeal.

"Today's ruling should finally put an end to any legal questions over the federal government's ability to fund human embryonic stem cell research," Senator Tom Harkin said in a statement, according to Brown. "A cloud over this promising scientific field has been lifted."


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