Human Embryonic Stem Cells: Will Sherley v. Sebelius Expand the Definition of the Disabled Individual?

June 1, 2013

The D.C. Circuit decided Sherley v. Sebelius in favor of the National Institute of Health by holding that federal funding can be applied to human embryonic stem cell research. This decision will allow scientists to make strides in research, and it could allow for scientists to quickly characterize genetic abnormalities that predispose humans to develop particular diseases or disabilities. Individuals with genetic abnormalities may be characterized as disabled due to their genes alone, and they may be subject to discrimination. The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, the current legislation that could provide protection to this class of individuals, would provide only minimal benefit. However, the individuals may be able to establish themselves as a protected class under the Americans with Disabilities Act if the intersex community is successful in arguing that it should be given the protections provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act.