American Society of Hematology

Supreme Court Denies Appeal in Stem Cell Research Case; Obama Administration Policy Expanding Federally-Funded hESC Research Allowed to Stand

Published on: January 07, 2013

In a victory for all proponents of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research, the Supreme Court has denied certiorari in the case of Shirley v. Sebelius, the long-standing lawsuit challenging federally-funded embryonic stem cell research, allowing for an earlier ruling against opponents of hESC research to stand. This ruling allows scientists to move forward in their hESC research confidently, without fear of the Obama Administration's policy on federal funding or the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) financial support being threatened.

In October 2012, two scientists filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court arguing that President Obama's expansion of federally-funded hESC research created unfair competition in their own search for government funding to research the properties of adult stem cells. The appeal sought to force the court to reconsider questions from an earlier ruling in August 2012 against these claims: one being whether the court should have relied on a split decision as to whether federal funding violated the 1996 Dickey-Wicker law that prohibits taxpayer financing for work that harms an embryo, the other is whether the NIH could ignore thousands of negative comments generated in 2009 when the NIH announced that restrictions on hESC research enacted by President Bush would be lifted by President Obama. However, with today's decision, the Supreme Court will not be reconsidering the earlier ruling, and all federal funding for hESC stands.

ASH has long been an advocate of stem cell research, and has issued a policy in support of all forms of stem cell research, as well as being one of the first physician organizations to support the embryonic stem cell research. ASH is also a member of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR), one of the strongest advocates for the use of regenerative medicine for the purposes of fighting disease in the country. The Society strongly supports federal funding for all avenues of stem cell research under NIH federal research guidelines and with appropriate public oversight and will continue to work with CAMR and congressional supporters to ensure the continued availability of funding for stem cell research.

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