Monday, February 22, 2010

Don't Mess with Texas Newborns!

Last year, some concerned Texas parents brought and won a suit against the state after discovering that their children's newborn blood samples, taken at birth and again at two weeks, were being stored indefinitely without their permission.

After Babycakes was born, we contacted the Department of State Health Services and, through the course of several phone and email conversations with the director of the Newborn Screening Lab, requested that our son's blood samples be destroyed. Since we were among the first parents to request such an action, the director asked for our input as she wrote the form letter notifying parents that our requests would be honored.

She explained the process of storing the samples and assured us that the information on the cards, taken from a heel prick, could not be used for the "type of stuff you see on CSI." Once we received our letter, we were satisfied that our request had been met and Babycake's card had been permanently destroyed. I was also pleased to see a poster at my pediatrician's office, informing parents of the newborn screening process, since most seem to be unaware of this issue. Our plan was to request the exemption form at Sugarplum's birth and, once again, opt out of storing his information.

And then today, we heard an interview with Emily Ramshaw on our local NPR station. Ramshaw is a writer for the Texas Tribune, and her story appears on their front page this morning. It seems that there was, in fact, some of the "type of stuff you see on CSI" going on behind the scenes, as 800 infant blood samples were given to the federal government between 2003 and 2007, specifically for the purpose of creating a DNA database. And Texas went to great lengths to keep this information from reaching the general public.

Jim Harrington, the attorney who brought the case against the state of Texas, has requested that Governor Perry get back the samples from the federal government. He is giving the Governor and the Attorney General 10 days to respond. We'll see what happens.