July 23, 2009
A new law allows parents of children born in Texas to direct the Texas Department of State Health Services to destroy dried bloodspot samples collected as part of a routine “heel stick” screening of newborns for certain inheritable and congenital disorders, after the newborn screening process is complete.
The state’s newborn screening program began in 1963. In July 2002 the department began saving all newborn screening samples for quality assurance/quality control purposes and for their potential value in approved research to find new or more effective ways to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure leukemia, birth defects, brain cancer or other serious medical conditions in children.
The stored dried bloodspot cards contain no names or other personally identifying information. Identifying information linking a child to a particular bloodspot card is not allowed outside of DSHS without advance written consent of the parent, managing conservator or legal guardian unless otherwise provided by law.
But people who do not want their children’s bloodspot samples stored after the newborn screening process is complete may request destruction of those samples. Information about the use and storage of the samples and a downloadable destruction request form are available online at www.dshs.state.tx.us/lab/nbsbloodspots.shtm.
The form also can be requested by calling DSHS toll-free at (888) 963-7111, extension 7333 or by mailing a request to: Texas Department of State Health Services, Newborn Screening Laboratory, MC 1947, P.O. Box 149347, Austin, TX 78714-9347.
DSHS reports that as of July 20 it has received requests to destroy samples for 85 children. As of June 30 some 5.4 million samples have been stored. Typically, two samples are collected from each newborn, one at birth and the other one to two weeks later.
Recent legislation specifically authorizes the storage and use of the samples and requires that information about the practice and the destruction option be given to parents of newborns by the physician or other person attending the birth. Beginning Aug. 1, DSHS will be including this information with the newborn screening sample collection kits ordered by hospitals, birthing centers, physicians and midwives.
(News Media Contact: Doug McBride, DSHS Press Officer, 512-458-7524.)