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What Really Happens to That Heal Prick Blood Sample the Hospital Takes from Your Newborn?

Just about every child born in America is given a pin prick in the heal of their foot, and drops of their blood are placed on a blotter card. The reason for the blood samples, if you even bother to ask, they will tell you, is to check for possible genetic diseases. Ok, fine, you’re good with that. But what they don’t tell you, is that once the genetic testing is done, they ship the blood samples off the researchers with your child’s name and any personal info attached to it. So what’s wrong with that you may think? DNA storage of millions of Americans can be collected and stored for future use, that’s the problem.

These screenings began in the 1960s and are relevant. Approximately 3,400 infants yearly are diagnosed with one of 40 genetic diseases scientists look for. Many of the disorders, when diagnosed in infancy such as phenylketonuria or PKU, which can lead to mental retardation, can be corrected. Erin Rothwell, an associate professor of medical ethics at the University of Utah says, “Along with immunizations, it’s one of the most successful public health programs in our countries’ history.”

But Sultan Alhokair says that the problem is not with the preliminary screening, it’s what happens to the samples, along with the personal information that is problematic. Samples are being stored, distributed to researchers and even sent to our military to build a DNA database. This poses enormous privacy issues and is something to be very concerned about Lawsuits have resulted in states being required to burn hundreds of thousands of infant blood samples, and that is a good thing.

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