Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Texas to Destroy Millions of Baby Blood Samples

In the immediate days that follow the birth of a child, the life of the new parents is often filled with activity before they even leave the hospital. Family and friends are filing in and out to gaze at their newborn son or daughter and exclaim that they never saw a more beautiful baby. Nurses go over the seemingly endless amount of information that they will need to know before being allowed to care for their child at home. And, there is very little sleep to be had. It's no wonder that in that crazy and exciting atmosphere a parent may wonder if something was left at the hospital--perhaps a bottle of shampoo or one of those little socks that never seem to be able to stay on a baby's foot. It probably never crosses mom and dad's minds that they might be leaving some blood behind.

The state of Texas had been collecting blood samples from its newborns for decades without needing the permission of the parents. The blood was drawn to check for birth defects, but then kept for further research. Recently, some parents became aware of this practice and alarmed at the potential for private medical information to be released. The law has now been changed to give parents the right to refuse storage of their baby's blood.

The Texas Department of State Health Services has announced that it will destroy more than five million blood samples that were obtained without the knowledge of parents after facing a legal challenge from the Texas Civil Rights Project. TCRP argued that the storage of the blood constituted violated protections against unlawful search and seizure and a federal court in San Antonio determined that all samples must be destroyed by early next year.

In this instance, the doctors and nurses who were collecting blood samples before the current law was passed were not breaking any laws. Now, however, these medical professionals must be more forthcoming in sharing the details of their work. To do otherwise would be unethical and may result in an experience with the medical review board. If you are in the field of medicine and your professionalism has been challenged, Bertolino LLP has attorneys who are experienced in appearing before the board and are ready to assist you. Please contact our Austin office if you find yourself needing legal representation in this area.

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