Sherley vs. Sebelius, a lawsuit threatening stem cell research, was thrown out today.
What does this mean?
My paralyzed son Roman Reed and I were in the room when President Obama signed a declaration reversing the Bush doctrine, which had so severely limited stem cell research.
What a shining moment that was, filled with hope, after the repressive policies of the previous White House occupant. The disability community had a friend in the White House now!
But then the lawsuits came, unmistakably ideological in origin, from the Christian Medical Association and others.
Two plaintiffs were acknowledged as having standing: James T. Sherley and Theresa Deisher. They sued to shut down embryonic stem cell research, on the grounds it could mean less money for them. They were adult stem cell researchers, and argued that every dollar spent on embryonic stem cell research was therefore a dollar they could not have.
This to me was nonsense. Every scientist competes for funding; did they deserve special treatment, that an entire area of science should go unfunded for their economic benefit?
Should ideological opinion and monetary self-interest be allowed to block the funding of research which might help my son stand up from his wheelchair?
Today, we were vindicated.
Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that the federal government may fund embryonic stem cell research, siding with Health and Human Services director Sebelius, the Obama administration, the National Institutes of Health– and all who support research for cure.
When Judge Lamberth dismissed the plaintiff’s claims and ruled that NIH guidelines did not violate federal law, it was a huge victory for America’s one hundred million citizens with a chronic (incurable) disease or disability.
But we dare not relax and think ourselves secure. The ideological forces behind this lawsuit still exist. Some seek to rally religious fervor for personal political gain.
Fortunately, the American people overwhelmingly support the research, with recent polls running as high as 72% in favor of using “embryonic stem cells left over from in vitro fertilization procedures”.
But the Republican platform of 2008 sought a complete ban all embryonic stem cell research, public and private.
As far as I know, they have not liberalized their views on this issue.
California is a sanctuary for stem cell research. The people of this state voted to support and protect it, even putting it into the state Constitution.
Today, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) is performing quietly heroic service, doing the long slow step-by-step work that must be done and which cannot be short-changed, if cures are to become reality.
But lawsuits were thrown against us, by groups with similar ideological persuasions.
For more than two years, those suits denied the California program’s funding. It was kept alive only by private loan/donations from philanthropists, and finally a $150 million loan from the state (since repaid), until the court finally dismissed the charges against us as groundless.
Today California’s program is working hard for the good of everyone, safe and secure behind the wall of our state’s Constitution. Every state deserves such a program, and such protection for its researchers.
Every day of delay is a loss, 24 hours which might have brought us closer to cure. And every attack could affect a new scientist who wonders, maybe I should get into a safer area– one not so politically dangerous– that is a blow to all our hopes.
And the larger battle,to allow federal funding?
With Judge Lamberth’s ruling, America has won the right to make our fight. Now, state dollars can once again be matched by federal contributions, bringing in more resources to the states, and more hope to the patients.
No one can say when cures will come. The conditions stem cell research is intended to alleviate are all chronic, meaning incurable.
The impact of chronic disease? In dollars alone, the cost is staggering.
In 2009, chronic disease costs America an estimated $1.65 trillion a year, equaling the national debt for that same amount of time.
In suffering, the cost cannot be quantified.
If we want to lessen those gigantic costs, cure research is the only way to do it.
Judge Lamberth’s decision was both wise, and fortunate. But we who support the research dare not rest.
We cannot forget those for whom we fight.
Here is Bob Klein, founder of the California stem cell program, in his final message as Chair of the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee:
“As I watched my mother die of Alzheimer’s, stripped of every memory of family, friends, children—every hope and dream of her life—I promised her I would do my best to that others would not suffer her same death while “living” out their last years…(Today) A gateway to medical discoveries and therapies has opened. Let us support and defend this opportunity… a new hope for the future of mankind, to reduce the suffering of every child, every woman, and every man on this planet from chronic disease and injury.”
–California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Annual Report, 2010