Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Recent Court Decision Halting Federal Funding for Research Involving Human Embryonic Stem Cells

You will all have read about last Monday’s surprise decision by a federal judge to halt federal funding for human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research. The ruling, which was in response to a lawsuit by scientists who were engaged in non-hESC research, was based upon the judge’s interpretation of a Congressional ban on using federal funds for the destruction of embryos that is sharply at odds with more than a decade of legal interpretations under three administrations, Republican as well as Democratic.

Although the decision on hESC research does not extend to other kinds of stem cell research – including the new and powerful technique known as “induced pluripotent stem cells (IPS)” – it does represent a sharp and unexpected setback just a year and a half after President Obama signed an executive order releasing funds for hESC research.

The judge’s action won’t block the road to a cure for Parkinson’s and other diseases, but it closes – at least temporarily – one of the gates to that road. And scientists tell us they need all of those gates open, not just some, if they are to do their life-saving work most effectively.

With PDF's support, the Parkinson's Action Network (PAN) is working on this issue. According to PAN's CEO, Amy Comstock Rick, there is some good news.

First, the Obama Administration has moved with alacrity to challenge the judge’s ruling, which is known as a “temporary injunction.”

Second, stem cell research advocates, led by the Coalition for the Advancement of Stem Cell Research (CAMR), is working with members of Congress to craft a legislative “fix” so that the next judge doesn’t have the same hook on which to hang his anti-hESC research hat that this one did.

And third, we have an advocacy coalition – including you and other people with Parkinson’s and their families – that is stronger than it has ever been and has proved its effectiveness politically on this grassroots issue. As Amy says in a statement she issued to the PD community on Wednesday, “we need each and every one of you to be a part of it!”

Certainly there’s no denying that the court decision is a bad break for the Parkinson’s community. If it is allowed to stand, it will throw a wrench into science, and other wrench into the hopes and prayers of people with Parkinson’s and their families who have a right to be sure that scientists have access to every opportunity to chase the cure to their disease. Be assured that PDF will be doing everything it can, along with our friends at PAN and the other Parkinson’s organizations, to make certain that it does not stand.

We will keep you apprised as events unfold. In the meantime, you may want to visit the PAN website for further information on how you can become involved in advocacy efforts around this issue.

What Do You Think?

So what are your thoughts on this recent court decision halting federal funding for embryonic stem cell research?


Anonymous said...

I could be mistaken, but unless there has already been a prepared letter to various government representatives that might make it easy for people to voice their opinions about this, it really should be done. I think people are outraged, want to help make a difference, but it is so much easier to do for them when these types of letters are prepared on an Internet or FB site that they can easily fill in and hit send. It is just a thought, but may help make a difference.

Irene said...

I agree with the previous commenter. I don't think this issue has gotten nearly enough press, and for me, these days, the quickest way to spread the word is via Facebook. If I could sign a prepared letter, and then forward the link around Facebook, I am sure a stronger voice in support of stem cell research could be heard.

Robin Elliott said...

@Anonymous and @Irene are right on target. We all need experts to help us frame language on complicated topics, and I am pleased to say that on this one – the federal court decision on stem cell research – the Parkinson’s Action Network (PAN) has drafted a simple two-sentence letter to help you take action on this issue.

PDF has posted these instructions as to how to email your Representatives. Be sure to do it NOW – members need to act on this issue over the next very few weeks and we need to make our voices heard to make sure that they do so.

If readers want to go the “extra mile,” place a call to your Congressmember and Senators in their district or state offices. Most of them will be there through the end of next week – September 10 or 12, when the summer recess concludes – and they have nothing whatsoever to do during that time except to hear from constituents like yourselves in their home offices!

Good luck all – and enjoy the holiday weekend.