Michigan to destroy some blood spots in fight over consent

Jun 22, 2022, 7:58 PM | Updated: Jun 23, 2022, 12:28 pm
This July 2022 photo shows a lab in Lansing, Mich., where the state health department tests blood f...

This July 2022 photo shows a lab in Lansing, Mich., where the state health department tests blood from newborns for more than 50 rare diseases. The state has agreed to destroy more than 3 million dried blood spots that are in storage. It's a partial settlement in an ongoing lawsuit over privacy, consent and the use of blood spots for research. The agreement doesn't cover millions more spots that are stored in Detroit.(Joey Cappelletti/Report for America via AP)

(Joey Cappelletti/Report for America via AP)

DETROIT (AP) — The state of Michigan has agreed to destroy more than 3 million dried blood spots taken from babies and kept in storage, a partial settlement in an ongoing lawsuit over consent and privacy in the digital age.

At the state’s direction, hospitals have routinely pricked the heels of newborns to draw blood to check for more than 50 rare diseases. That practice, which is widespread across the U.S., isn’t being challenged. Rather, the dispute is over leftover samples.

A blood spot from each child is stored in Lansing while five more are sent to the Michigan Neonatal Biobank in Detroit for safekeeping under climate-controlled conditions.

Scientists can pay a fee to use the Detroit-stored samples for various research projects. Research with newborn blood spots occurs in other states, too, especially California, New York and Minnesota where they can be kept for decades.

Texas in 2009 agreed to destroy millions of spots to settle a lawsuit over privacy.

Since 2010, Michigan must have permission from parents to use spots for research. But attorney Philip Ellison argues that the program still violates constitutional protections against searches and seizures and might not be fully understood by parents who are presented with forms amid the fog of childbirth.

Ellison claims the consent form and a related brochure are vague, making no reference, for example, to the state collecting fees for blood spots used by scientists.

“If moms and dads say, ‘Use them. I don’t care’ — that’s their business,” he told The Associated Press. “But the state is not giving them enough information to make an informed decision. … Most people have no recollection of signing anything. My wife had a C-section. She was still groggy 12 hours later from all the drugs pumped into her from giving birth.”

Ashley Kanuszewski acknowledged that she signed forms allowing blood spots from two babies to be added to the research bank but doesn’t recall receiving an informational brochure at the hospital.

“I don’t like not knowing where or what they’re using it for,” said Kanuszewski, one of four parents who sued in 2018.

In May, after four years of litigation, the health department said it would destroy certain blood spots stored in Lansing over the next 18 months and stop adding to that inventory, according to an agreement filed in federal court in Bay City.

Those spots number 3.4 million, spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin said.

Sutfin declined to explain why the state agreed to get rid of them, citing the ongoing litigation. But in 2021, U.S. District Judge Thomas Ludington said the state had no specific permission from parents to keep a single leftover blood spot in Lansing.

The state has described them as spots that could be used by parents in case future health questions arise.

The agreement to destroy those spots doesn’t end the case. Still in play: Millions that are under the state’s control at Wayne State University in Detroit and available for research, including many that precede May 2010 when the health department began asking for parental consent.

In the months ahead, Ludington will hold a trial to try to determine how many blood spots really are needed for newborn disease screening, including to calibrate critical testing equipment, among other issues.

The health department is defending how it runs the program. It emphasizes that no spots are stored for research unless parents or guardians give permission. Spots also can be destroyed upon request, though the number of people who take that step each year is very small.

A code — not someone’s name — is attached to blood spots that are stored in Detroit, making privacy risk during research “very low,” the state said.

“We only allow activities which pertain to public health for benefit of all, for public good, for getting better testing in the future, for discovering more and so on,” Sandip Shah, director of the state’s public health laboratory, said in an interview with lawyers.

The department publishes a list of approved research. The state last year, for example, signed off on scientists using 3,600 newborn blood spots to determine exposure to so-called forever chemicals known as PFAS in western Michigan. Other projects have involved for-profit companies.

“How this court resolves the issues presented by plaintiffs could dramatically impact the biomedical research environment, potentially chilling scientific progress critical to protecting public health,” the Association of Public Health Laboratories said in a court filing.

In 2009, Texas agreed to destroy millions of newborn blood spots that were kept without consent. Spots obtained since 2012 now are destroyed after two years unless Texas parents agree to have them stored longer for research.

___

Follow Ed White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/edwritez

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Rescuers recover 26 dead from mudslide in India’s northeast

GAUHATI, India (AP) — Fresh rain and falling boulders on Saturday hampered rescuers who have so far pulled out 26 bodies from the debris of a mudslide that wiped out a railroad construction site in India’s northeast, officials said. Rescue work is expected to continue for a couple of days in rugged hilly terrain with […]
1 day ago
FILE -  A coal-fired power station in Witbank, South Africa , Monday, Oct. 11, 2021. South Africans...
Associated Press

South Africans struggle in the dark to cope with power cuts

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — South Africans are struggling in the dark to cope with increased power cuts that have hit households and businesses across the country. The rolling power cuts have been experienced for years but this week the country’s state-owned power utility Eskom extended them so that some residents and businesses have gone without power […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Virgin Orbit rocket launches 7 US defense satellites

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Virgin Orbit rocket carrying seven U.S. Defense Department satellites was launched from a special Boeing 747 flying off the Southern California coast and streaked toward space Friday night. The modified jumbo jet took off from Mojave Air and Space Port in the Mojave Desert and released the rocket over the […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Seattle Mariners host the Oakland Athletics Saturday

Oakland Athletics (26-53, fifth in the AL West) vs. Seattle Mariners (37-42, fourth in the AL West) Seattle; Saturday, 4:10 p.m. EDT PITCHING PROBABLES: Athletics: Paul Blackburn (6-3, 3.12 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 62 strikeouts); Mariners: George Kirby (2-3, 4.08 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 49 strikeouts) FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK LINE: Mariners -183, Athletics +156; over/under is 7 1/2 […]
1 day ago
FILE - Ukrainian State Emergency Service firefighters work to take away debris at a shopping center...
Associated Press

Russia’s messages with missiles tell West to back off

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The latest in a litany of horrors in Ukraine came this week as Russian firepower rained down on civilians in a busy shopping mall far from the front lines of a war in its fifth month. The timing was not likely a coincidence. While much of the attritional war in Ukraine’s […]
1 day ago
Abortion-rights advocates gather outside the Tarrant County Courthouse during the Bans Off Our Bodi...
Associated Press

Texas Supreme Court blocks order that resumed abortions

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Supreme Court blocked a lower court order late Friday night that said clinics could continue performing abortions, just days after some doctors had resumed seeing patients after the fall of Roe v. Wade. It was not immediately clear whether Texas clinics that had resumed seeing patients this week would […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
...

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Michigan to destroy some blood spots in fight over consent