The Supreme Court this week denied cert (that is, refused to hear the appeal) in a case where two scientists are trying to prevent the use of federal funds for embryonic stem cell research (ESCR) even if it involves stem cell lines that already exist. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against them, so the cert denial leaves the Obama administration’s policy of allowing such research on existing stem cell lines in place.
The two scientists, James L. Sherley and Theresa Deisher, do research on adult stem cells and have argued that federal law still bans federal funding from being used for ESCR. The Obama administration issued regulations saying that the law did not prevent funding for research on stem cell lines that already existed at the time Congress passed a law banning such research in 1996. The D.C. Circuit has now ruled twice in favor of the administration’s interpretation of the law and the Supreme Court has now allowed those rulings to stand.
The Dickey-Wicker Amendment, first passed in 1996 and attached to every appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services, says:
(a) None of the funds made available in this Act may be used for–
(1) the creation of a human embryo or embryos for research purposes; or
(2) research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death greater than that allowed for research on fetuses in utero
(b) For purposes of this section, the term “human embryo or embryos” includes any organism, not protected as a human subject under 45 CFR 46 (the Human Subject Protection regulations) . . . that is derived by fertilization, parthenogenesis, cloning, or any other means from one or more human gametes (sperm or egg) or human diploid cells (cells that have two sets of chromosomes, such as somatic cells).
Bush issued an executive order banning all federal funding for ESCR, but Obama rescinded that order and replaced it with one allowing such research, the ruling notes, “as long as it utilizes cells from lines (1) created by in vitro fertilization for reproductive purposes, (2) no longer needed for that purpose, and (3) voluntarily donated by the individuals who owned them-even if that line was derived after 2001.”
This is a good result, of course, but I’d frankly like to see it go much further. I think scientists should be able to create new embryonic stem cell lines whenever they’d like by utilizing donated sperm and eggs. They would fertilize those eggs and create zygotes of a few hundred cells at the most before stopping and using those embryonic cells for research. The notion that this destroys a person is rather silly.