By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
A federal lawsuit has been filed claiming the new guidelines for embryonic stem cell research created by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) violate a federal law prohibiting the funding of research in which human embryos are destroyed.
According to a report by the Catholic News Agency (CNA), the plaintiffs in the case include the Christian Medical Association (CMA) and the embryo adoption agency Nightlight Christian Adoptions. Dr. James L. Sherley, a senior scientist at the Boston Biomedical Research Institute and Dr. Theresa Deisher, founder of AVM Biotechnology, are also parties to the suit. The Alliance Defense Fund is serving as co-counsel on the case and providing financial assistance.
At the heart of the case is the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which has been part of the annual appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services every year since 1996. This amendment bars federal funding for the creation of a human embryo or embryos for research purposes and also research in which a human embryo or embryos are “destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death.”
Thomas G. Hungar, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the language of the statute is “clear.”
“It bans public funding for any research that leads to the destruction of human embryos. NIH’s attempt to avoid Congress’s command by funding everything but the act of ‘harvesting’ is pure sophistry. The guidelines will result in the destruction of human embryos and are unlawful, unethical, and unnecessary.”
The suit also alleges that the NIH implemented the guidelines without proper procedures required by law and without properly considering other forms of adult and induced pluripotent stem cell research. Instead, it implemented its guidelines with a “preconceived determination” to fund ESCR without considering “scientifically and ethically superior alternatives,” the plaintiffs’ legal team charges.
Funding the research would compel every American to cooperate with “unlawful human experimentation” and would violate fundamental research ethics never to lethally experiment on one human being for the benefit of others.
Sam Casey, co-counsel for the plaintiffs and general counsel of Advocates International’s Law of Life Project, says that the majority of the 50,000 comments that the NIH received were opposed to funding ESCR. He also pointed out that NIH officials admitted that they violated the public comment process by ignoring the majority of these comments.
The suit was filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Francis Collins as head of the National Institutes of Health.
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