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Baby CODIS?

Currently there are spe­cific rules in place for what DNA pro­files can and can not be placed into CODIS (Combined DNA Index System), but I didn’t know that the blood sam­ple taken from all new­born babies are being saved in some states.

It’s only a mat­ter of time before restric­tions get loos­ened up, and every new­born baby’s DNA pro­file will put into the data­base, and com­pared to sus­pected crim­i­nal profiles.

Then the police won’t even need a search war­rant to obtain genetic samples.

Original arti­cle posted here:

One of the most excit­ing moments in life is to wit­ness the birth of a new child. All hell could be break­ing loose out­side the deliv­ery room, yet all your atten­tion in those moments is focused on the mir­a­cle of a new baby being born. Yet in those exhil­a­rat­ing moments, a small event takes place in hos­pi­tals across the coun­try that escapes the atten­tion of most every par­ent, yet is becom­ing a mat­ter of increas­ing con­cern for parents.

Laws in all 50 states require hos­pi­tals to col­lect a sam­ple of every new­born baby’s blood (from a small pin prick to the baby’s foot). The pri­mary pur­pose is to test for PKU (phenylke­tonuria, an inher­ited dis­ease that can result in brain and nerve dam­age) and other dis­eases (California, for exam­ple, tests for some 76 dif­fer­ent conditions).

Were the test itself the end of the mat­ter, few ques­tions would be raised. However, par­ents and oth­ers in a num­ber of states are begin­ning to ques­tion what hap­pens to those mil­lions of infant dried-blood sam­ples — each of which con­tains the entire genetic his­tory of the infant, as well as DNA infor­ma­tion on his or her par­ents and ances­tors — that are col­lected each year. Who owns those sam­ples? For what purpose(s) can the infor­ma­tion be used; and by who? What agen­cies and com­mer­cial enti­ties can access the infor­ma­tion? Is parental con­sent required? Why should the infor­ma­tion be retained at all?

In fact, law­suits in at least two states — Minnesota and Texas — have been filed to test the lim­its of such new­born DNA data bas­ing. The con­di­tions under which such DNA sam­ples are col­lected, retained and used likely will lead to more such law­suits as par­ents learn of these factors.

Some states (California and North Carolina, among oth­ers) retain the DNA sam­ples col­lected from new­borns indef­i­nitely, and other states keep them for up to 23 years. And while many states tech­ni­cally allow par­ents to refuse to have their newborn’s blood sam­ple genet­i­cally tested, such “opt out” pro­ce­dures rarely are made known to parents.

The stakes in this data war are high, as researchers and gov­ern­ment agen­cies are real­iz­ing the value of such a data­bank of DNA and other genetic infor­ma­tion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has at least since 2002 been advo­cat­ing for a national data­bank, call­ing such “left­over dried blood spot spec­i­mens” a “valu­able … source for pub­lic health sur­veil­lance and … population-based data on preva­lence of genetic vari­a­tions.” The National Institutes of Health is using $13.5 mil­lion in tax­payer dol­lars to cre­ate a national blood sam­ple repository.

These efforts are being aided by fed­eral leg­is­la­tion signed into law by President George W. Bush last year that allows the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to screen the DNA of all new­borns in the coun­try. The pur­ported jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for this far-reaching, pri­vacy inva­sive law was the need to have a “national con­tin­gency plan” to meet “pub­lic health emergencies.”

State gov­ern­ments are mov­ing quickly also to develop reg­i­mens for retain­ing and access­ing what Sharon Terry of the Genetic Alliance calls a “national trea­sure” of data. Michigan, for exam­ple, report­edly has set up state-run freezer facil­i­ties at a “neona­tal biobank” in Detroit.

Researchers and other advo­cates of DNA data bas­ing are aggres­sively pro­tect­ing their turf. The American College of Medical Genetics, for exam­ple, recently issued a “posi­tion state­ment” extolling the ben­e­fits of dried-blood spec­i­men data­bases, and dis­miss­ing oppo­nents’ con­cerns as “unsub­stan­ti­ated and highly exag­ger­ated.” Even the March of Dimes has joined the band­wagon — vig­or­ously oppos­ing require­ments for parental con­sent (now required only in two states plus the District of Columbia).

With fed­eral law, tax­payer dol­lars, and oth­er­wise respected agen­cies like the March of Dimes lined up against them, par­ents and privacy-advocates try­ing to stem the tide of infant DNA data bas­ing have their work cut out for them. Let’s hope they are up to the challenge.

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Related posts:

  1. State hits crime lab on DNA cache
  2. Austin police turn­ing to DNA to solve thefts
  3. Wisconsin Department of Corrections Outsmarted by Convict
  4. Prosecutors Move To Seize Control of Crime Lab
  5. Follow-up on Beaufort County DNA Lab
  6. Fake DNA — Planted Evidence!
  7. Science Found Wanting in Nation’s Crime Labs
  8. Instant DNA analy­sis com­ing soon…
  9. CSI Miami Episode 703 “And How Does That Make You Kill?”
  10. Local police tired of wait­ing on DNA evi­dence seek their own labs

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