The US government this afternoon filed court documents requesting a reversal of last week’s temporary ban on human embryonic stem cell research.
“The court’s order causes irrevocable harm to the millions of extremely sick or injured people who stand to benefit from continuing research, as well as to the taxpayers who have already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on this research through public funding of projects which will now be forced to shut down,” said Tracy Schmaler, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice, in a statement.
The documents filed by the government consist of two actions – an appeal of last week’s decision, which will be heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (right), as well as a request to stay the injunction, which will be heard by the same court which issued it last week.
To justify issuing an injunction before the case has been decided, Judge Royce Lamberth had to demonstrate that the plaintiffs, adult stem cell researchers James Sherley and Theresa Deisher, would suffer “irreparable injury” if it weren’t granted. He argued that such harm would come in the form of “lost opportunity to receive funds” due to increased competition for National Institutes of Health dollars.
In a declaration filed in support of the request for a stay, however, NIH director Francis Collins rebuts that argument. Between 2007 and 2009, before the current NIH guidelines for stem cell research were put into place, Sherley applied for five NIH grants, but did not receive them, Collins notes, while this year he received more than $425,000 from the NIH.
Collins adds that agency has already invested more than $546 million of taxpayers’ money on embryonic stem cell research, and that much of that money would be wasted if the research supported by this funding were to stop. He writes, “the mission and operations of NIH would be severely hampered as a result of this Court’s Order.”