Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Sep 21, 2010 in Ethics, Legal, Legislation

Senate Attempted to Alter Dickey-Wicker Amendment in 2001

Senate Attempted to Alter Dickey-Wicker Amendment in 2001

In the ongoing litigation concerning the use of federal funds to support research with hESCs (for reverse chronological background, start here), the plaintiffs (Dr. Sherley et al) raise an interesting fact in their September 14th opposition to the government’s emergency motion to stay Judge Lamberth’s ruling (which precluded federal funding of hESC research).


In 2001, the Senate attempted to alter the Dickey-Wicker Amendment by inserting the following permissive language, “…Federal dollars are permitted, at the discretion of the President, solely for the purpose of stem cell research, on embryos that have been created in excess of clinical need and will be discarded, and donated with the written consent of the progenitors.”

According to Sherley et al, this language is evidence that Congress recognized that federal support of hESC work did not agree with the “plain terms” of the Dickey-Wicker Amendment. Although one could argue, conversely, that such language was added precisely to clarify the terribly ambiguous terms of the Dickey-Wicker Amendment. Nevertheless, the added language was “deleted in Senate floor action,” and the 2001 version of the Dickey-Wicker Amendment was repassed in 2002 (and yearly thereafter).

Another interesting tidbit: Although plaintiffs Sherley and Deisher, who work only with adult stem cells, argue that they are at risk of irreparable harm* if/when NIH funds are made available to scientists who perform hESC research, Dr. Sherley himself received $425,500 in NIH grant money under the 2009 guidelines for performing hESC research. But Sherley et al counter that this objection is “a complete non sequitur” and add, “Dr. Sherley’s receipt of particular NIH dollars does nothing to vindicate his right to seek additional federal funding free from competition from illegal grant applications.”

Brief, oral arguments from both sides are scheduled for Monday, September 27th, before Judges Judith Rogers, Thomas Griffith, and Brett Kavanaugh in the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The latest, revealing court documents from the plaintiffs and defendants (Sebelius et al) are courtesy of yesterday’s post at The Great Beyond blog.

hESC = human embryonic stem cell.

* On the basis of the competitor-standing doctrine.

Image of undifferentiated hESCs from

bmartin (1127 Posts)

A native East Tennessean, Barbara Martin is a formerly practicing, board-certified neurologist who received her BS (psychology, summa cum laude) and MD from Duke University before completing her postgraduate training (internship, residency, fellowship) at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She has worked in academia, private practice, medical publishing, drug market research, and continuing medical education (CME). For the last 3 years, she has worked in a freelance capacity as a medical writer, analyst, and consultant. Follow Dr. Barbara Martin on and Twitter.