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Key Briefs Filed in Stem Cell Litigation

March 2, 2012—The federal government submitted its Feb. 27 brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in the stem cell litigation, Sherley, et al. v. Sebelius, et al.  The Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CAMR) and Genetics Policy Institute also submitted an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in support of the government’s position in the case.  AAMC is a founding member of CAMR.

James L. Sherley, M.D., Ph.D., Boston Biomedical Research Institute and Theresa Deisher, Ph.D., Ave Maria Biotechnology Company, filed suit in federal court on July 7, 2009 challenging the guidelines and the federal funding of human Embryonic Stem Cell (hESC) research. The plaintiffs alleged that the guidelines violate the so-called Dickey-Wicker provision that has been included in every Labor-HHS appropriations bill since 1996. Dickey-Wicker prohibits federal funding for research in which embryos are created for research purposes, or human embryos are destroyed, discarded or subject to risk.  Drs. Sherley and Deisher lost in the district court after a short-lived procedural victory.  They now are appealing the verdict in a case many see as eventually headed to the Supreme Court [see Washington Highlights, Sept. 23, 2011].

The Justice Department, on behalf of the federal government, stressed that Congress has been fully aware that the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations have supported hESC research funding.  Congress annually has included the Dickey-Wicker provision, without amendment, with full knowledge of this funding policy and interpretation of the Dickey-Wicker provision, and yet has not sought to limit the bipartisan interpretation of the statute.  The brief argues that the National Institutes of Health’s interpretation of the statute is reasonable and deserves deference. 

Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for April 23.  


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Washington Highlights, a weekly electronic newsletter, features brief updates on the latest legislative and regulatory activities affecting medical schools and teaching hospitals.

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Jason Kleinman
Sr. Legislative Analyst, Govt. Relations
Telephone: 202-903-0806