The Christian Medical Association blasted the Obama administration Tuesday for trying to lift an injunction blocking the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.
CMA CEO Dr. David Stevens criticized the administration for its "irrational insistence" on channeling hundreds of millions of federal dollars toward "speculative" embryonic stem cell research rather than proven sources of cures that do not involve the destruction of embryos.
"The Obama administration should prioritize curing patients – not fighting the court ruling that has stopped their illegal funding of embryonic stem cell research," said Stevens in a statement.
Last week, federal judge Royce Lamberth issued a preliminary injunction that stopped the National Institutes of Health from further funding human embryonic stem cell research. Lamberth ruled that the funding of the controversial research violated the Dickey-Wicker Amendment – a 1996 law that prohibits federal funding for research that involves destruction or damage to a human embryo.
The Christian Medical Association is one of the parties in the original lawsuit that led to the injunction.
Opponents of human embryonic stem cell research take issue with the fact that embryos are destroyed during the process of harvesting the stem cells. They argue the research is unethical because it puts an end to a potential life.
Supporters of the controversial research, on the other hand, emphasize that embryonic stem cells can differentiate into almost any tissue and therefore have the potential to treat a wide range of diseases.
But critics of the research often point to the already more than 80 diseases being treated with non-controversial adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cells, meanwhile, have treated none. They also note that 1,970 clinical trials with patients are underway for adult stem cells while there is only one human clinical trial for embryonic stem cells.
According to a Rasmussen Poll released last Friday, only a third of U.S. voters believe that tax dollars should be spent on embryonic stem cell research. In comparison, 57 percent of American voters oppose taxpayer funding for the controversial research.
In his statement, Stevens argued that human embryonic stem cell s are "incredibly unstable and form tumors." He also highlighted that many of the prominent proponents of the controversial research are bias because they depend on the government to fund their projects.
Stanford, the University of Wisconsin and Harvard University all hold patents on embryonic stem cell lines, the CMA head highlighted.
"They have focused on embryonic stem cell research not as a purely scientific endeavor, but also a way to make money," Stevens asserted. "Embryonic stem cell research is a long and difficult scientific path that could take decades to produce any useable results. Even in that unlikely event, cures would be too expensive for most patients.
"That is why savvy private investors are not putting money into speculation on such research," he concluded.
The Obama administration, in defending the use of federal dollars to fund embryonic stem cell research, argues that the research has untapped medical treatment potential and assures that no federal money is used to destroy embryos.
White House spokesman Reid Cherlin stated the Obama administration has made it clear that embryonic stem cell research is one of its top priorities.
"[A]nd we're going to do everything possible to prevent the potentially catastrophic consequences of this injunction," said Cherlin.
In March 2009, Obama issued an executive order that repealed former President George W. Bush's restriction on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Obama in his inaugural address said he would "restore science to its rightful place," which was interpreted to mean providing greater freedom and financial support for embryonic stem cell research.
The administration on Tuesday expressed concern that even a short halt in funding would force many projects already underway to shut down or be abandoned altogether. It asked the court to allow the NIH to continue funding the research while the case is appealed.
"The court's order causes irrevocable harm to the millions of extremely sick or injured people who stand to benefit from continuing research as well as the taxpayers who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on this research," said Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler in a statement.
NIH director Francis Collins, in a statement attached to the Obama administration appeal, said the NIH has invested more than $546 million in federal dollars for human embryonic stem cell research since 2001.
The Justice Department asked the judge to respond by Sept. 7 regarding its request to lift the injunction.