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The National Institutes of Health is prohibited from funding (1) the creation of a human embryo or embryos for research purposes; or (2) research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death greater than that allowed for research on fetuses in utero under 45 C.F.R. 46.204(b) and 42 U.S.C.S. § 289g(b).
It was the distinction between funding research projects directly involving the destruction of a human embryo and projects using embryonic stem cells (ESC) derived from an earlier destruction underlaid the instant controversy. Appellants, James L. Sherley, Dr. And Theresa Deisher, Dr., who are researchers in the field of adult stem cells, argued that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines violate the Dickey-Wicker ban on federal funding of research in which a human embryo or embryos were destroyed. They filed a complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against appellee, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services' implementation of regulations allowing federal funding of such research.
Did the NIH guidelines violate the Dickey-Wicker ban on federal funding of research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed
No. The Court held that NIH had reasonably interpreted Dickey-Wicker's ban on funding research in which embryos are destroyed to allow federal funding of ESC research.
The Court explained that "research" as used in Dickey-Wicker was an ambiguous term and may reasonably be understood to mean a "discrete endeavor" that excludes the initial derivation of ESCs. And under that interpretation, Dickey-Wicker permits federal funding of research projects that utilize already-derived ESCs—which are not themselves embryos—because no "human embryo or embryos are destroyed" in such projects. The language of Dickey-Wicker does not ban funding for, e.g., "research which provides an incentive to harm, destroy, or place at risk human embryos."