Last month, Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., threw the entire field of human embryonic stem cell research into doubt when he ordered the National Institutes of Health to stop funding research projects involving the cells. Since the cell lines are derived from young embryos – which are destroyed in the process – a law called the Dickey-Wicker Amendment prohibits the federal government from funding the research, he explained in a preliminary injunction that took the NIH and scientists across the country by surprise.
The Obama administration asked the judge to lift his injunction while the matter is sorted out in court. On Tuesday, Lamberth denied that request. The government plans to appeal, according to this report on the Nature website.
The latest ruling clears up at least a little bit of the confusion generated last month. For instance, Lamberth makes clear that with his injunction, he did not intend to stop federal funding for projects using human embryonic stem cell lines that were approved by President George W. Bush. That means that at least some experiments can continue undisturbed.
But legal experts who questioned the reasoning behind the original ruling are even more perplexed now. Writing on the Volokh Conspiracy blog, UCLA law professor Russell Korobkin explains the “logical inconsistency” of Lamberth’s argument.