February 22, 2009

Texas using infant blood for research

Blood taken from Texas infants to test for a range of birth defects is being stored for medical research, officials said.

The Austin (Texas) American-Statesman reported Sunday that the blood, which is taken as a part of a state-mandated infant screening program that does not require parental consent. The newspaper noted a similar law in Minnesota was challenged.

The Texas Health Department's policy says the samples of blood can be used by the medical community for cancer research, birth defects studies and calibration of lab equipment, said Doug McBride, spokesman for the Department of State Health Services.

McBride said parental consent isn't required because getting permission might be more costly and could require more time of hospital staff.

But our real concern would be for the babies with detectable disorders that weren't detected because their parents declined the screening -- babies who had no say in that decision, he said.

The newspaper said the blood spots are stored at Texas A&M University's School of Rural Public Health, and each card bears a code number instead of a name.