Debate in US over blood from newborn safety tests
Last Updated: Tuesday, February 09, 2010, 00:00

Washington: A critical safety net for babies - that heelprick of blood taken from every newborn in the US - is facing an ethics attack.

After those tiny blood spots are tested for a list of
devastating diseases, some states are storing them for years.

Scientists consider the leftover samples a treasure, both to
improve newborn screening and to study bigger questions, like
which environmental toxins can harm a fetus` developing heart
or which genes trigger childhood cancers.

But seldom are parents asked to consent to such
research - most probably do not know it occurs - raising
privacy concerns that are shaking up one of public health`s
most successful programs. Texas is poised to throw away blood
samples from more than 5 million babies to settle a lawsuit
from parents angry at what they call secret DNA warehousing. A
judge recently dismissed a similar lawsuit in Minnesota.

Michigan just moved 4 million leftover blood spots
into a new "BioTrust for Health," planning a public education
campaign about the research potential and how families can opt

Advisers to the US government hope to have national
recommendations by in two months on how to assure all babies
still get their newborn tests while allowing parents more say
in what happens next.


First Published: Tuesday, February 09, 2010, 00:00

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