Mary Ann Roser
February 23, 2009
For almost seven years, the state has been indefinitely storing blood from nearly all newborns in Texas without their parents’ consent for possible use in medical research.
The blood is collected as part of a 44-year-old state-mandated newborn screening program in which hospitals, birthing centers and midwives draw blood from a baby’s heel â€” parental consent isn’t required for that, either â€” so the state can test for a host of birth defects. The state either discarded the blood after six months or, more recently, stored it for three years before destroying it.
But starting in 2002, the state health department began collecting and keeping blood indefinitely for current or future medical research, a practice that has been the subject of a legal challenge in Minnesota.
Five dots of blood are collected on paper for the screening and then stored.
Under the health department’s policy, the samples can be used by the medical community for things like cancer research, birth defects studies and calibration of lab equipment, said Doug McBride, spokesman for the Department of State Health Services.
The law doesn’t require that parents be told how the blood might be used. But if parents are aware of the blood draws, Texas law lets them opt out only for religious reasons.