The Supreme Court has denied the Cert petition in the Sherley v Sebelius case, the lawsuit regarding federal taxpayer funding of human embryonic stem cell research. The case has revolved around the prohibition by Congress of funds for “research in which an embryo is destroyed, discarded or injured”, a phrase in the Dickey-Wicker amendment enacted by Congress every year since 1996. One key question in the suit was whether federal funds could be used for research on human embryonic stem cells already in culture, after derivation using other sources of funds, or whether “research” included the derivation step; derivation is a necessary step to begin the research by first isolating and growing the embryonic stem cells, and requires destruction of a young human embryo. In the timeline of the lawsuit and previous decisions, the Appellate court had parsed the phrase in question and divided out the necessary derivation of the embryonic stem cells from subsequent experiments.
It’s disappointing that the Court has declined to review the case and give their answer on this question and other questions raised in the lawsuit. It’s also very likely that a great deal more human embryos will be destroyed in this research now. This is sad not only given the loss of vulnerable young human life, but also because it will likely delay the real lifesaving research with adult stem cells.