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How do you feel about this? I am stunned.

An Austin lawyer threatened to pursue a new federal lawsuit Monday after learning that some newborn blood samples in Texas went to the U.S. military for potential use in a database for law enforcement purposes.

The Department of State Health Services never mentioned the database to Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, who settled a lawsuit in December with the state over the indefinite storage of newborn blood without parental consent, or to the American-Statesman, which first reported on the little-known blood storage practice last spring. Harrington said he thought another suit was likely unless the health department destroys the information obtained from the blood samples or obtains consent.


Asked by Anonymous at 1:38 AM on Feb. 24, 2010 in Politics & Current Events

This question is closed.
Answers (10)
  • Thank you, grly and Lorikeet, the nationwide medical database is exactly what came to my mind, too.

    What I can't figure is why the mitochondrial database could not be supplied with millions of samples from bloodbanks? Or if their research needs to have the mitochondria matched with gender / race / physical characteristics, why they can't use the DNA or blood samples collected in law enforcement, with the knowledge of the adults ...

    As to whether or not to worry about one's records getting into gov't bureaucrat hands, I have this comment: It is not a particular problem AS LONG AS the gov't is making NO decisions about your life.

    But as soon as the gov't (which is immune to being sued, unlike an insurance company) is deciding about my heart transplant or diabetes treatment, then I DON'T want them turning me down because I have bad genetic predispositions which they can see in my blood records, etc.

    Answer by waldorfmom at 1:27 PM on Feb. 24, 2010

  • "This is the worst case of bad faith I have dealt with as a lawyer," he said Monday.

    Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for the Texas attorney general's office, which represented the health department, fired back. "During this litigation, Harrington was provided accurate answers to the questions he asked," he said.

    "Once Harrington negotiated $26,000 in attorneys' fees and costs for himself, accepted a settlement agreement and got his desired headlines, he was satisfied and dropped his

    lawsuit against DSHS. It appears recent media reports caused Harrington to backtrack in an effort to obscure how he chose to handle this case," he said

    Answer by Anonymous at 1:39 AM on Feb. 24, 2010

  • An article Monday by the Texas Tribune, a news Web site, said the state health department sent 800 anonymous samples to the military to help create a national mitochondrial DNA database. The samples were sent in 2003 and 2007, according to the department's Web site.

    Carrie Williams, a health department spokeswoman, said the program wasn't mentioned because, "We don't publicize every agency initiative or contract, and obviously this is a sensitive topic."

    Texas agreed to take part in the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory database project because blood spots might help identify "ethnic or ancestral origins of unidentified corpses using mitochondrial DNA," Williams said. "We believed it was an important research project that could potentially help in missing persons cases."

    Answer by Anonymous at 1:39 AM on Feb. 24, 2010

  • The blood samples are taken from the heel during newborn screening tests for genetic disorders.

    The blood spots are collected on coded cards, with the names matching those codes kept on file at the health department. Names are not disclosed without parental consent, the department says.

    In March, Harrington sued in federal court on behalf of four parents and a pregnant woman who later dropped out, claiming that the state's collection and indefinite storage of the samples since 2002 amounted to "an unlawful search and seizure."

    The Legislature approved a law in May that requires medical professionals to inform parents or guardians that the blood spots are being collected, stored and could be used for research. Parents who object could opt out.

    Answer by Anonymous at 1:39 AM on Feb. 24, 2010

  • In December, Harrington settled his suit when the health department agreed to destroy 5.3 million samples.

    "I can't tell you how many times we sat there, and they said no law enforcement," Harrington said of the lawsuit discussions. "They said, 'It's only about medical research, it's only about medical research.'\u2009"

    Williams said the project has been listed on the Web site for weeks and "falls under the broader category of public health research."

    "Our intentions over the years have been good," she added, "and we are moving forward with the positive changes to the program."; 445-3619

    Answer by Anonymous at 1:40 AM on Feb. 24, 2010

  • "falls under the broader category of public health research."

    This is what concerns me about the government implementation of a 'national computerized database' for health records.  I can't believe some people are ok with Obama's plan for this database and how some blindly ignore just HOW much control of your personal info this gives the government.


    Answer by grlygrlz2 at 6:58 AM on Feb. 24, 2010

  • Exactly grly--like that information would never be used against someone under a government run healthcare plan--like, say.... Medicaid/Medicare or ObamaCare!! Right?! Riiiiiight??? And the libs call US sheep!!! LOL

    Answer by LoriKeet at 7:53 AM on Feb. 24, 2010

  • My records have been electronic since 2005. If anyone is that hard up that they need to know my yeast infection history or colonoscopy results, then whatever.

    I'm trying to remember who was president in 2005..Oh that's right it was not Obama.

    Answer by Anonymous at 9:33 AM on Feb. 24, 2010

  • Honestly, I am surprised they haven't been routinely collecting DNA and setting up a national database for future offenders. That is wrong imo, but it wouldn't surprise me to hear it.

    anon, I am curious to know how it was Bush that set up your records elecronically on a national database..when there is still no national database for everyone. Did your dr go electronic...lots have? Are you military, they are... Bush didn't set these up though. Just asking..thanks!

    Answer by yourspecialkid at 11:38 AM on Feb. 24, 2010

  • Wow, thank you for bringing this to my attention. I live in Austin and my baby was born here! I am livid.

    Answer by Anonymous at 12:38 PM on Feb. 24, 2010