A lawsuit's been filed by lawyers at the Texas Civil Rights Project because, allegedly, for the last seven years, the state's Department of State Health Services has "deceptively and unlawfully sold, traded, bartered, and distributed blood samples" taken from babies.
If "What the hell?!," was your reaction, you are correct. And worse, the lawsuit says that the blood samples have been sold to ominous sounding companies like Biomerieux, Inc., and the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.
From the lawsuit:
[State Health Services] provided blood samples gathered from babies in Texas to private companies...in exchange for a fee or various lab and testing equipment.
The purpose for which the private companies and government agencies used the samples are undisclosed and unrelated to the purposes for which the infants' blood was originally drawn. Defendants have distributed, sold, bartered, and traded at least 8,800 blood samples.
And according to Jim Harrington, the lawyer who filed the suit, the state could have sold as many as 20,000 samples. Creepy.
The state has taken newborns' blood for a long time and used it for screening purposes, but those samples were supposed to be destroyed after 60 days. But in 2002, the Civil Rights Project discovered that the blood was being stored (at Texas A&M. Aggies!!) and used for "medical research, lab equipment calibration, production of for-profit pharmaceuticals, and other undisclosed matters indefinitely..."
The group sued the state for the first time back then, and the state settled and agreed to destroy about 4 million samples and change the law to allow parents to opt out of the blood sampling. The Texas Civil Rights Project and its plaintiffs are concerned about, according to the lawsuit, "the possibility of discrimination against their children and perhaps even relatives through the use of such blood samples and research activity thereon."
According to Harrington, lawyers asked the state many times if any of the blood had been sold or sent to other government agencies or private companies. The state said no, but now lawyers know that was a lie.
"Part of the lawsuit is to find out what the hell is going on," Harrington tells Hair Balls. "We just don't believe anything they say."
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So we might not know how the blood was used until -- if ever -- the end of this suit. But here are three "buyers" mentioned in the suit, and until Hair Balls learns more, we'll let you imagine all the good or evil being done with a supply of baby's blood.
1. Biomerieux, Inc. -- A leader in the field of in vitro diagnostics. According to the company's Web site, "scientific and technological" innovation has allowed the company to extend into the field of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
2. PerkinElmer -- Huge health science company that does everything from genetic testing to "food quality and safety" to "medical imagery and therapeutic lighting." In 2008, the company started PerkinElmer Genetics, Inc., now the nation's "largest provider of newborn screening services..."
3. United States Armed Forces Institute of Pathology -- Harrington's lawsuit specifically mentions the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, which provides "worldwide scientific consultation, research and education services in the field of forensic DNA analysis to the Department of Defense and other agencies."