Texas to destroy baby blood samples

AUSTIN — Texas health authorities will destroy more than five million blood samples taken from babies without parental consent and stored indefinitely for scientific research.

The Texas Department of State Health Services announced Tuesday it would destroy the samples after settling a federal lawsuit filed by the Texas Civil Rights Project. The project, acting on behalf of five plaintiffs, had sued the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas A&M University System.

The lawsuit alleged that the state’s failure to ask parents for permission to store and possibly use the blood — originally collected to screen for birth defects — violated constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure. The plaintiffs cited fears their children’s private health data could be misused.

Under the settlement overseen by a San Antonio federal court, the blood samples collected without parental consent must be destroyed by early next year.

It also requires the department to publish a list of all research projects that used the blood specimens.

State health services spokeswoman Allison Lowery said an estimated 5.3 million samples would be destroyed. About 4 million to 4.5 million are stored at the Texas A&M School of Rural Public Health, she said.

Andrea Beleno, 33, was one of the parents who sued the state. She said she was “stunned” to learn that blood samples taken from her son, born in Austin in November 2008, were being stored indefinitely for unspecified research projects.

“You have to give permission for them to give your kid formula in the hospital,” Beleno said. “I don’t understand why you don’t have to give permission for the state to keep your kid’s DNA.” Read more here.