AUSTIN (December 22, 2009)--A federal court in San Antonio has ordered Texas health officials to destroy as many as four million blood samples that were taken from newborn babies without parental consent and then stored indefinitely for scientific research.
The Texas Civil Rights Project Tuesday announced the settlement in a suit it filed on behalf of five plaintiffs against the Texas Department of State Health Services and Texas A&M University.
The lawsuit alleged that the state's failure to ask parents for permission to store and possibly use the blood violated constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure.
The federal court ordered any blood samples collected without parental consent to be destroyed by early next year.
The plaintiffs said there are at least four million such samples.
For 44 years, a state-mandated newborn screening program required hospitals to draw blood from the heels of newborns to test for 27 genetic defects and diseases.
For the last seven years, those samples have been sent to Texas A&M University for storage and for research at other facilities, which required approval from DSHS and its Institutional Review Board.
By law hospitals, birthing centers and midwives were able to take the blood without consent.
The stored samples were identified only by number.