The NIH guidelines, according to the lawsuit, illegally violate a Congressional ban on research using human embryos because they "require and depend upon the destruction of living human embryos." The rules, issued last August, are also "arbitrary and capricious," according to the complaint, because they "fundamentally undermine long-established state laws and ethical norms that protect human life from medical experimentation."
Plaintiffs in the case include Nightlight Christian Adoptions, a California agency that facilitates implantation of embryos left over from in vitro fertilization treatments into adoptive parents; several couples seeking to adopt such embryos; a researcher specializing in adult stem cell research; and the Christian Medical Association.
At a news conference on Capitol Hill, representatives of the groups said that while they remained hopeful that the Bush administration would overturn the guidelines and stop the research, they felt the need to act before next week's March 15 deadline for research applications.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson said earlier this week that the matter is under review, but a decision on whether federal funding for embryonic stem cell research could go forward would not likely come until "late spring or early summer."
In the meantime, said Sam Casey of Human Life Advocates, one of the attorneys involved in the case, researchers who are applying for the first round of funds are having to demonstrate their facility with embryonic stem cells, "and it occurred to us that the only way they can possibly prove that is to have privately killed embryos in the first place. We hope to stop it here."
Although he is not a plaintiff, the lawsuit also won the backing of Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan. "It has never been acceptable to kill one person for the benefit of another," he said at the news conference. "Yet this is precisely what was proposed by the NIH when they formalized their guidelines governing destructive human research last year."
An HHS spokesman
said that the agency would have no official comment on the suit, as is
its policy for all lawsuits filed against the department.
2000 Reuters Ltd.