Baby blood bartered by the state

Thursday, December 9, 2010 - 12:13pm

Any parent whose child was born here in Texas knows the drill.

A nurse will prick the newborn’s foot and take a blood sample to test for more than 2 dozen illnesses.

Now we know, they were doing much more.

Most parents are no doubt fine with the blood test and disease screening.

But, until now, they didn’t know all that the blood would be used for. In fact, the state traded it to for-profit companies and governmental agencies.

Now the parents are suing, not for money, but to get their privacy back.

The screenings take place shortly after birth. And the State Department of Health Services does indeed screen for any health issues with the baby. And in 60 days, the blood spots were to be destroyed.

But, they weren’t.

The Department kept the blood samples, and we now know, used them to barter for goods and services.
It was even given to the Department of Defense.

And why is the blood in demand? It’s the DNA, stupid.

“They were never informed,” says Nick Jackson of the Texas Civil rights Project. “They never signed an opt-in or opt-out of any kind.”

The state lists 24 research projects on its Website using over 8800 blood spots. All these, were essentially without permission. And this listing, and the first ever consent form, came after one mother, Andrea Beleno sued.

“Number one, if they are going to do this, do it with parental permission,” Beleno says. “And number two, figure out what’s going to happen to the blood of millions and millions of Texas children that they already have.”

After the initial suit two years ago, the legislature passed new rules saying you can opt out. The Texas Civil

Rights project is suing again to make it an opt-in process, so parents get clear information to make their own call.

Calling this an egregious example of Big Brother, the attorney says he simply doesn’t trust the State of Texas.

“We don’t expect a lot of credibility from Health Services based on their deceiving us in the original negotiations,” Jackson told us. “A couple of the plaintiffs in the first case were asking repeatedly…has any of this gone for commercial purposes. Has any of this gone to any law enforcement or governmental agency.

They said basically, you’re paranoid. You need to calm down and stop asking about that. “

At their press conference today, the Texas Civil Rights Project raised the spectre of a DNA data bank, that can be used for any of a number of purposes.

However well-intentioned the disease screening was, it has now become something very different indeed.

For more information, go to the Civil rights Project’s Website.

Texas Civil Rights Project: http://www.texascivilrightsproject.org/

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