Millions of blood samples collected from Texas newborns will be destroyed in order to settle a lawsuit brought by parents and privacy advocates who alleged the Texas Department of State Health Services overstepped its authority under a mandatory screening program.
Texas to destroy baby blood taken without consent
The dried bloodspots are collected from every infant born in the state in order to screen them for life-threatening disorders under a law in effect since the 1960s. In 2002 the health department began storing those samples at Texas A&M Health Science Center for research, which the lawsuit alleged was unrelated to the original purpose of the law and without the knowledge or consent of parents.
A state law passed this year requires that parents be allowed to have the bloodspots destroyed. Under the settlement, the department will destroy all samples collected before the law went into effect May 27. “If parents don't object, the department saves the samples for uses allowed under the new legislation—primarily quality assurance and control purposes to ensure accuracy in lab testing and because the samples could provide an invaluable resource in researching new or more effective ways to prevent, diagnose and treat serious medical conditions that affect Texas children, including leukemia and birth defects,” the department said in a written statement.
The lawsuit, filed by several parents with the support of the Texas Civil Rights Project, alleged that storing and using the samples without consent violated standard research protocols and that the “deeply private medical and genetic information” could be provide a basis for discrimination against the children or their relatives. The lawsuit puts the number of samples stored since 2002 at 4.2 million.
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