Federal lawsuit filed over babies' blood

March 13, 2009 4:35:27 AM PDT
Texas' policy of storing babies' blood indefinitely for possible scientific research is being challenged in a federal lawsuit filed Thursday. The Texas Civil Rights Project filed the suit against the Texas Department of State Health Services and Texas A&M University.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Antonio on behalf of five plaintiffs, claims that by not asking parents for permission to store and possibly use the blood the state is violating the constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure.

Texas has been collecting blood samples for decades to screen for 27 different birth defects and other disorders. By law the blood can be taken without consent by hospitals, birthing centers and midwives.

The Department of State Health Services established a policy in 2002 in which it began setting aside the blood spots after the screenings are done and allowing some of it to be used for research. Before that, the blood was discarded after a certain interval.

In February, the state said it would consider requests from parents who want their childrens' blood samples to be destroyed.

"If you want to talk about Big Brother, this is one of its worst incarnations," James Harrington, director of the Civil Rights Project, said in an online story Thursday for the Austin American-Statesman. Harrington spoke at a news conference with some of the plaintiffs.

Doug McBride, a spokesman for the state health department, told The Associated Press Thursday night via an e-mail the department would have no comment.

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