KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Appeals Court Ruled That Feds Can Temporarily Fund Stem Cell Research

The Washington Post: "An appeals court ruled Thursday that the federal government can resume funding human embryonic stem cell research while the court reviews a judge's order that had temporarily prohibited such funding. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit granted a request from the Justice Department to lift a temporary injunction issued Aug. 23 blocking the funding on the grounds that it violated a law barring funding any research that involves the destruction of human embryos. While the move was praised by advocates for the research, the appeals court made it clear it was not making a final decision about the case, which means the reprieve could be short-lived and the fate of the funding could continue to be whiplashed by seesawing court rulings. … Opponents of stem cell funding have until Sept. 14 to file a response, and the government must submit its response by Sept. 20" (Stein and Hsu, 9/9).

The Wall Street Journal: "It isn't clear whether the National Institutes of Health will use the window to push out new money for embryonic stem-cell research. After Judge [Royce] Lamberth issued his injunction in August, the NIH abandoned its planned review of 50 new grant applications and a second-level review of about a dozen applications valued at $15 million to $20 million. Also frozen was a planned review in September of 22 applications totaling $54 million. NIH director Francis Collins welcomed Thursday's order, but the NIH didn't say specifically what would happen to the applications. Proponents of the research say it could lead to treatments for major diseases because the cells have a unique ability to develop into different types of tissue and is ethical because it uses discarded embryos. Foes say the research is far less promising than adult stem-cell studies and morally objectionable because it destroys embryos" (Adamy and Naik, 9/10).

The Boston Globe: "For scientists and patient advocacy groups who applauded President Obama's decision to expand federal funding for stem cell research last year, the new decision was welcome news. But it comes in the midst of what has become a frustrating game of legal ping-pong that has left the promising field of research - that offers hope for the treatment of everything from spinal cord injury to diabetes - mired in confusion. … The initial lawsuit was brought by Dr. James L. Sherley, a senior scientist at the Boston Biomedical Research Institute in Watertown and others who oppose stem cell research. Yesterday, members of their legal team said that any delay in the implementation of the injunction was intolerable" (Johnson, 9/10).

The New York Times: "The stay also gives Congress time to consider legislation that would render the ban, and the court case behind it, largely moot, a prospect that some embattled Democrats have welcomed. Despite staunch opposition by some critics, embryonic stem cell research is popular, and a legislative fight on the issue could prove a tonic for Democrats battling a tough political environment" (Harris, 9/9). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.