Sherley v. Sebelius is a federal lawsuit that sought to overturn the controversial guidelines for public funding of destructive human embryonic stem cell research that the National Institutes of Health issued on July 7, 2009.

Sherley v. Sebelius Background and Timeline

March 11, 2009 Executive Order to fund "responsible, scientifically worthy human stem cell research...to the extent permitted by law."

May 26, 2009 On behalf of itself and a large coalition of scientists, patients and pro-life organizations called DO NO HARM et al., The Law of Life Project's legal team file over 140 pages of comments opposing on legal, ethical and scientific grounds the NIH's proposed regulatory "Guidelines" that would for the first time fund the destruction of living human embryos for in human experimentation.

July 7, 2009 NIH Guidelines are published in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. The Guidelines allow for funding of research using hESCs (human Embryonic Stem Cells) derived from embryos created using in vitro fertilization (IVF) for reproductive purposes and no longer needed for these purposes, assuming the research has scientific merit and the embryos were donated after proper informed consent was obtained from the donor(s).

August 19, 2009 The Law of Life Project and its co-counsels representing selected members of the Do No Harm coalition file their complaint in federal district court challenging the legality of the NIH's new guidelines.

October 27, 2009 District court rules that all plaintiffs in the lawsuit lack standing.

December 8, 2009 The Law of Life Project legal team appeals district court's denial of standing.

June 25, 2010 Court of Appeals rules in favor of The Law of Life Project on issue of standing, and remands case to District Court.

August 23, 2010 District Court grants preliminary injunction which halts all federal funding for hESC research.

Sept. 7, 2010 The District Court issues its Order denying the government's request for an 'emergency' stay of the court's preliminary injunction pending appeal

Sept. 9, 2010 The Court of Appeals grants a short "administrative stay" of the District Court's preliminary injunction to give it a few days to review the voluminous record in the caseand plaintiffs' opposition to the government's 160 page emergency stay motion that had already been denied in the district court.

Sept. 9, 2010 Plaintiff adult stem cell researchers file their 400-page motion for summary judgment asking the District Court for a Declaratory Judgment against the government on all claims and a permanent injunction against federal funding of "human embryo research in which the human embryo is destroyed, discarded or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death."

More background information on Shereley v. Sebelius from the Bioethics Defense Fund

More about Sherley v. Sebelius

Who we represent:

Along with co-counsel Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and the Alliance Defense Fund, we filed a federal court complaint challenging the NIH's guidelines on behalf of a broad coalition of plaintiffs, including:

  • Dr. James L. Sherley, a former member of the MIT faculty, currently working as a senior scientist at the Boston Biomedical Research Institute;
  • Dr. Theresa Deisher, the founder, managing member, and research and development director of AVM Biotechnology;
  • Nightlight Christian Adoptions, a non-profit, licensed adoption agency dedicated to protecting and finding adoptive parents for human embryos conceived through in vitro fertilization;
  • all individual human embryos whose lives are now at risk under NIH's guidelines;
  • parents seeking to adopt human embryos;
  • and the Christian Medical Association, a non-profit association of doctors dedicated to improving ethical standards of health care in the United States and abroad. 

We are arguing:

That the NIH Guidelines violate existing federal law banning the use of federal funds for the destruction of human embryos. 

That because NIH created and sent its guidelines with a preconceived determination to fund human embryonic stem cell research and without considering scientifically and ethically superior alternatives, the guidelines are invalid regulations that violate the federal Administrative Procedure Act and, therefore, should be struck down.

Legal Background:

For a complete legal history of the federal funding ban on destructive human embryo research, 1995 to present, Click Here

Important Documents:

Transcript of the April 23rd oral argument in the D.C. Circuit. Click Here