05-23-2010, 03:12 PM
Direct Action Resistance Fighter
Joined: Aug 2006
DNA database created from babies' blood samples
Quote:Blood samples taken in heel-prick tests to screen for serious conditions are being held for years by some hospitals and can be subsequently accessed by the police to identify people involved in crimes.
The samples can also be used by coroners and medical researchers for a variety of purposes prompting concerns that a national DNA database is being created by the backdoor.
Blood spot screening is carried out on babies aged between five and eight days old in order to test for a variety of serious conditions such as sickle cell and cystic fibrosis.
Government guidelines advise hospitals to store the samples for five years before destroying them, but some are hanging onto them indefinitely.
While the mothers of newborn babies are given leaflets explaining that their infant’s DNA will being stored, campaigners claim they are not told how long for or that they could be used for medical research and even police inquiries.
In order to obtain access to an individual sample, the police would need to obtain a court order.
Andrew Lansley, the new Secretary of State for Health, has been urged to launch an inquiry into the practice.
Dr Helen Wallace of Genewatch said: “We do not want to put mothers off having these tests as they are very important for their babies’ health, but the key issue really is how long these samples are being stored for. Some hospitals are hanging onto them indefinitely.
“Giving a new mother a leaflet does not amount to informed consent. We would like to see a system brought in across the whole country which would see all samples destroyed after a certain period of time.”
Details obtained through a series of Freedom of Information requests revealed that while some hospitals such as Alder Hey in Liverpool destroy all samples after the recommended five years, others such as Central Manchester University Hospital’s Trust has more than 1 million samples which it plans to store indefinitely.
Great Ormond Street hospital in London began storing samples in 1990 and preserves them for at least 20-years.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “Blood spot screening is an important test carried out to identify serious conditions in newborn babies. Research on blood spots left over once screening tests have been completed have led to medical advances benefiting children and their families.
“There are strict safeguards in place that protect the sample once it is taken. Parents are well informed about newborn screening and the sample storage. They receive a number of information packs during pregnancy and afterbirth."
But campaigners claim mothers who have just given birth are not always in the best position to take in such information.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, is to write to the Health Secretary to demand an urgent investigation.
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