Judge Blocks Federal Funding Of Human Embryonic Stem Cell ResearchThe Washington Post: "A federal judge on Monday blocked the Obama administration from funding human embryonic stem cell research, ruling that the support violates a federal law barring the use of taxpayer money for experiments that destroy human embryos. U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth issued a preliminary injunction that prohibits the National Institutes of Health from funding the research under the administration's new guidelines, citing an appeals court's ruling that the researchers who had challenged the less-restrictive policy have the legal standing to pursue their lawsuit." The decision represents "a setback" for a high-profile Obama administration scientific policy. However, it was praised by stem cell research opponents. "The ruling stunned scientists and other advocates of the research, which has been hailed as one of the most important advances in medicine in decades because of its potential to cure many diseases but has been embroiled in controversy because the cells are obtained by destroying days-old embryos" (Stein and Hsu, 8/24).
The New York Times: "Scientists scrambled Monday evening to assess the ruling's immediate impact on their work. In his ruling, Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth of Federal District Court for the District of Columbia wrote that his temporary injunction returned federal policy to the 'status quo,' but few officials, scientists or lawyers in the case were sure Monday night what that meant. [Dr. George Q. Daley, director of the stem cell transplantation program at Children's Hospital Boston] was among those who said they believed that it meant that work financed under the new rules had to stop immediately; others said it meant that the health institutes had to use Bush administration rules for future grants" (Harris, 8/23).
The Wall Street Journal: "One of President Barack Obama's first acts on science policy after taking office was to take down barriers to stem-cell research set up by President George W. Bush in August 2001. While Mr. Bush had limited research on embryonic stem cells to a small number of then-existing cell lines, Mr. Obama in March 2009 opened up federal funding more broadly. But several scientists said that the injunction would appear to make illegal even Mr. Bush's more-cautious decision in 2001 to allow funding for then-existing embryonic stem cell lines. The government is spending about $137 million on human embryonic stem cell research this year and is projected to spend about $126 million next year. It's unclear whether the judge's decision would affect currently funded projects" (Meckler, Naik and Kendall, 8/24).
The Los Angeles Times: "Embryonic stem cell researchers said the decision would throw the field into turmoil. The Department of Health and Human Services, which operates the NIH, had argued that the act of creating embryonic stem cells was distinct from research that used the cells to study the development of genetic diseases or to create replacement cells that might treat conditions like diabetes, Alzheimer's and the paralysis that results from spinal cord injuries. But research is a long, continuous process that can't be partitioned into discrete pieces, Lamberth wrote. If Congress meant to prohibit funding only for specific scientific acts, it could have said so" (Kaplan and Levy, 8/24).
The Boston Globe: "The Obama administration attempted to walk a scientific and moral tightrope in its regulations, which allow scientists to work only with stem cells derived from donated embryos. The donors must give their explicit permission for scientific use of the embryos, typically stored at in vitro fertilization clinics" (Smith and Jan, 8/24). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.