Sherley v. Sebelius: Stem Cells and the Uneasy Interplay Between the Federal Bench and the Lab Bench

By: Ryan P. O’Quinn

After Barack Obama’s election to the presidency, he promised that one of his top priorities in office would be to relieve the restrictions initiated by President George W. Bush on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. President Obama followed through on his promise, but the celebrations in the nation’s research labs were short-lived. Anti-abortion advocates and other scientists working in the field that would allegedly be out-competed in the federal funding arena brought a legal challenge to the new government position. The struggle culminated in August 2010 with a federal district court issuing a preliminary injunction to halt the new funding initiative. Although the government successfully appealed for a stay on the injunction pending arguments in the Court of Appeals, the decision has paralyzed research in the field. This iBrief argues that the injunction was wrongly granted, predicts how higher courts might treat the case, and suggests that the proper forum for addressing this controversy lies within the scientific community, not the judiciary.

Cite: 2011 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 002

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