United States Appeals Court Overturns Federal Funding Ban On Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research

by Dr Sam Girgis on April 30, 2011

A U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has voted 2-1 to allow the Obama Administration to use federal funding for research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on human embryonic stem cells.  The recent decision overturns a lower court ban ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth in August of last year.  Judge Lamberth’s ruling was so sweeping that it was interpreted as a ban on all human embryonic stem cell research.  The current U.S. law on human embryonic stem cell research prohibits the creation of human embryos or the destruction of existing human embryos for research.  The government has argued that the destruction of human embryos for research (which is outlawed), is different from the use of already destroyed human embryos.  Lamberth’s previous ruling has been seen by the scientific community as a setback and blow to American biomedical research.  The appeals court decision to permanently lift the ban on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research will allow investigations into spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, cancer, as well as many other diseases to continue.  Human embryonic stem cell research is a topic that has divided the U.S. public.  Supporters contend that the research could lead to major medical breakthroughs in the treatment of many diseases.  Opponents argue that human embryonic stem cell research is a version of abortion and could lead the way toward eventual human cloning.  Although the current injuction has lifted the present ban on human embryonic stem cell research, the challenge to future research using human embryonic stem cells will now move on to a full trial in the federal courts.

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