Victory for science and patients: what the appeals court ES cell ruling means (UPDATE)

judge royce lamberth
Judge Royce Lamberth, who issued an injunction on federal funding of ES cell research.

A Federal Appeals Court ruled 2-1 today to overturn Judge Lamberth’s injunction against federal funding of ES cell research. Great news!

You can read the decision here (warning: big pdf).

A key part of the ruling was the following:

“the plaintiffs are unlikely to prevail because Dickey-Wicker is ambiguous and the NIH seems reasonably to have concluded that although Dickey-Wicker bars funding for the destructive act of deriving an ESC from an embryo, it does not prohibit funding a research project in which an ESC will be used.”

This case was never about science or fairness in funding as the two plaintiffs had contended, but rather it was their attempt to force their extreme moral vision on the rest of America, including other stem cell scientists. Judge Lamberth’s original injunction was woefully flawed and the appeals court was right to overturn it.

I’m not a lawyer obviously, but I believe there is still the possibility that the plaintiffs could appeal to the Supreme Court. However, their odds of success seem low at this point.

What this all means is the very important federally-funded science on human ES cells can move forward in the U.S. NIH can continue to fund it and scientists working on human ES cells can be reassured that there is at least more stability at this point in terms of the legality of the federal funding supporting their work.  The bottom line is that this is more than anything a victory for all the patients out there who are given hope by potential stem cell treatments based on human ES cells.  It is also a slap in the face to the myth that adult stem cells can treat everything. It is also a very good day for not only NIH, but also the federal system of research funding more generally because it says that scientists who fail to get NIH funding should not be encouraged to pursue frivolous lawsuits against NIH.

Nature’s Blog The Great Beyond has some important UPDATED info on the case. It seems the defendants can continue to potentially cause more heartache with various legal moves including as discussed earlier potentially trying to go to the Supreme. It is also possible that the original judge in the Case, Lamberth, could issue a final ruling counter to the Appeals Court, but he may very well defer to the Appeals Court since it is a higher court.  Stay tuned….unfortunately the case is not entirely resolved.


2 thoughts on “Victory for science and patients: what the appeals court ES cell ruling means (UPDATE)”

  1. Great outcome for the good guys! As noted, this is just one battle in the ongoing judicial/political war, but definitely a great result for science and patients. I wish it was a unanimous opinion to help quell any attempts to redecide en banc. Beggars can’t be choosers as they say.

  2. Pingback: The best, most detailed article on the Court ruling (

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