A judge ruled on Wednesday that the federal government would be allowed to continue funding embryonic stem cell research, overturning his previous decision in 2010 when he halted further government spending on the study.
Family Research Council’s senior fellow for Life Sciences, Dr. David Prentice, called the decision “unfortunate.”
“This is unfortunate, as this allows the flow of taxpayer funds to continue for this unethical, scientifically unworthy embryonic stem cell research,” he said. “This is also a sad day for patients, because it is not embryonic stem cells, but only adult stem cells that are currently treating patients and offering real hope for the future.”
Researchers Theresa Deisher and James Sherley had argued in 2009 that the new policy by President Barack Obama easing restrictions placed on embryonic stem cell research (set by former president George Bush) went against the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which prohibited government funding towards any work that involved harming or destroying embryos.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and halted federal spending on the research.
But the government appealed and sought to lift the ban placed on the embryonic stem cell research program, which was overseen by the National Institute of Health.
The NIH found that the Dickey-Wicker Amendment did not apply specifically to embryonic stem cells and reasoned that their research did not directly involve embryos, according to The Wall Street Journal.
An appeals court panel then allowed the research institute to continue funding embryonic stem cell studies, agreeing with the NIH’s findings.
Judge Lamberth ultimately followed suit, throwing out the case and commenting that the NIH’s arguments were reasonable – a victory for the Obama administration.
“This Court, following the D.C. Circuit’s reasoning and conclusions, must find that defendants reasonably interpreted the Dickey-Wicker Amendment to permit funding for human embryonic stem cell research because such research is not ‘research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed,’” the judge stated, as reported by Time.
Sean Morrison, director of the University of Michigan’s Center for Stem Cell Biology, said in a statement according to Time, “This ruling allows the NIH to continue funding research based on scientific merit rather than having courts influence the distribution of funds among scientific disciplines.”
“It remains important to pursue all forms of stem cell research, including both embryonic and adult stem cell research.”
Several scientists believed that embryonic stem cell research was vital in helping find cures to several diseases, though others viewed the practice as unethical and immoral.
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.
Critics of the research also have pointed to the more than 80 diseases being treated with non-controversial adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cells, meanwhile, have treated none.
“Americans should not be forced to pay for experiments that destroy human life, have produced no real-world treatments, and violate federal law,” said ADF Senior Counsel Steven H. Aden in a statement.
“The district court’s injunction simply enforced that law, which makes sure Americans don’t pay any more precious taxpayer dollars for needless research made irrelevant by adult stem cell and other research. The law is clear, and we intend to review all of our options for appeal of this decision. In these tough economic times, it makes no sense for the federal government to use taxpayer money for this illegal and unethical purpose.”
The Alliance Defense Fund is currently seeking ways to appeal the ruling.