As part of the settlement of a federal court action, the State of Texas has agreed to destroy more than 5 million blood samples taken from babies without parental consent and stored indefinitely for the purpose of scientific research. The Texas Department of State Health Services announced earlier this week that it would destroy the samples in connection with the settlement of a federal lawsuit filed in March 2009 by the Texas Civil Rights Project on behalf of five parents of children whose blood was being held for use in research without their consent.
The parents’ complaint alleged that the state’s failure to ask parents for permission to store and possibly use the blood – originally collected lawfully in order to screen for birth defects – violated constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure. The parents also expressed fears that their children’s private health data could be misused and that the disclosure of that data could lead to discrimination against them later in life. Under the settlement, the blood samples collected without parental consent must be destroyed by early next year. State authorities estimated that some 5.3 million samples would be destroyed as part of this process. The State of Texas also is required to publish a list of all research projects that used the blood specimens.