New Delhi, Oct 3 : The Delhi High Court on Tuesday directed Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma to appear on behalf of the Centre in a plea seeking approval for stem cell therapy treatment for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
On August 31, the high court had granted permission for two children suffering from ASD to undergo stem cell therapy as part of their treatment.
The family members of the two children had approached the court with a petition, following a halt in their treatment due to a recommendation by the Ethics and Medical Registration Board (EMRB) of the National Medical Commission (NMC).
On Tuesday, the petitioner’s counsel apprised the court that no counter affidavit has been filed in the case.
At this, counsel for the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) informed the court: “We’ve filed it this morning, and I may be given some time to place it on record.”
The ASG said that “the National Medical Council (NMC) believes that the Union should not represent the matter, despite your Lordships’ order”.
At this, the division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula observed that the court had previously directed both the NMC and the Union of India to submit a detailed and comprehensive affidavit, which has not been done.
However, it granted three weeks’ time to NMC to file a counter affidavit, and allowed four weeks to Centre to do the same.
Taking note of the ASG’s statement that the NMC has written instructions stating that the Union should not represent the matter, the Chief Justice said: “The matter is very important, and therefore, the learned ASG shall certainly appear in this matter on behalf of the Union of India.”
Now the case is scheduled for further hearing on November 8.
Earlier, the Chief Justice had highlighted that there is no existing law prohibiting the use of stem cell therapy for ASD.
Noting that the NMC is still in the process of making a final decision on the recommendation, the court had said that discontinuing the ongoing treatment would not serve any beneficial purpose and permitted the petitioners to continue the therapy. It had said that this is an interim order, ensuring that treatment does not halt immediately.
However, the treatment’s continuation is at the risk of the petitioners themselves.
Doctors from AIIMS, present during the proceedings, had apprised that stem cell therapy is currently recognised as a treatment for blood cancer, while its application in treating ASD remains experimental, and stressed on the need for more research and clarity on the therapy’s protocol.
They had indicated that, as of now, the efficacy of stem cell therapy for treating ASD is yet to be determined.
However, one of the petitioners, a medical professional, had said that her daughter has shown great improvement through the use of stem cell treatment. The petitioners had expressed their concern over the EMRB’s recommendation, stating that it hindered the treatment of their children who suffer from Global Developmental Delay with Autism, conditions impacting social and cognitive growth.