Friday, May 14, 2010

Newborn Blood Spot Banking in Canada

A controversy that began in Minnesota and Texas has spread north of the Canadian border to British Columbia. The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) is opposing the potential research use, without parental consent, of 800,000 newborn blood spots stored in a facility operated by Iron Mountain of Burnaby, B.C. The BCCLA published a press release on May 12 explaining its opposition and its concerns regarding B.C. Legislative Assembly 2010, Bill 11. The BCCLA describes Bill 11 as: "a grab bag of miscellaneous legislative provisions, including sections 165-167 that give the Minister of Health power to collect, gather, use and share personal information without any notice to or consent from affected individuals."

In addition to opposing Bill 11, the BCCLA's David Eby and an unnamed parent are challenging the privacy practices of the B.C. Newborn Screening Program operated by the B.C. Women's Hospital. The hospital's president, Dr. Jan Christilaw, insists (in The Province), “No researcher is actually going to walk out of there with someone else’s blood.” However, at CBC News, the Screening Program's director confirms "some of the samples have ... been used by medical researchers to establish 'normal values and ranges'" to improve testing methods. Nonetheless, privacy advocates are not satisfied. The Globe and Mail (and others) quoted one worried parent, Rhian Walker:

“This was never, ever explained anywhere to me .... I think this would change a lot of parents’ perception of that test. You’re trying to do what’s best for your baby, so I’m a bit taken aback to learn that now that information is being stored and utilized in a way that I haven’t given consent for.”

Although, Eby wants samples stored without consent to be destroyed, Christilaw confirmed in The Vancouver Sun that "staff are finalizing an opt-out part of the program, so parents will be able to decide up front if they wish to participate in the screening."

While BCCLA's advocacy may or may not slow the progress of Bill 11, will it discourage the uptake of a valuable public health service?


Katherine Drabiak-Syed. Newborn blood spot banking: approaches to consent. PredictER Law and Policy Update. Indiana University Center for Bioethics. March 12, 2010.
Jere Odell. Newborn Blood Spots, Biobanks, and the Law: Research Ethics in the News. Indiana Bioethics. February 2010.
Link: National Newborn Screening and Genetics Resource Center

Other Predictive Health Ethics News

Dan Vorhaus. DNA Spit Kits Off Walgreens’ Shelves? Try Genomics Law Report. May 13, 2010.
Michael Rugnetta. FDA Intervention Shelves Plan for Drugstore Genome Tests. Science Progress. May 13, 2010.
Andrew Pollack. Walgreens Delays Selling Personal Genetic Test Kit. The New York Times. May 12, 2010.
Courtney Hutchison. Over-the-Counter DNA Testing: Wave of the Future or Waste of Money? ABC News. May 11, 2010.
Philippa Brice. US genetic discrimination complaint. PHG Foundation News. May 7, 2010.
Sound Ethics. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Sound Medicine. May 2, 2010.
Bridget M. Kuehn. NIH Launching Genetic Test Registry. JAMA. 2010;303(17):1685.
Keith Doyle. UK Biobank 'close to signing up 500,000 participants'. BBC News. April 24, 2010.
Nuffield Council on Bioethics. Human bodies in medicine and research: consultation. Nuffield Council on Bioethics. April 19, 2010.
Larry Greenemeier. Case Studies Reveal that Patents Can Hinder Genetic Research and Patient Care. Scientific American. April 16, 2010.

- J.O.

1 comment:

Sandra said...

It's disgusting what the government is doing in our faces and behind close doors. Tearing away at our freedom one page at a time. Thanks for your post.