FAQ :: Does the government have my baby’s DNA?

Newborn babies in the United States are routinely screened for a panel of genetic diseases. Since the testing is mandated by the government, it is often done without the parents’ consent, according to Brad Therrell, director of the National Newborn Screening & Genetics Resource Center. In many states, babies’ DNA is stored indefinitely, according to the resource center.

DNA samples are kept so that tests can be repeated, if necessary, and in case it is ever needed to help parents identify a missing or deceased child. The samples are also used for medical research.

Art Caplan, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, says he understands why states do not first ask permission to screen babies for genetic diseases. “It’s paternalistic, but the state has an overriding interest in protecting these babies.”

Genetic testing for newborns started in the 1960s with testing for diseases and conditions that, if undetected, could kill a child or cause severe problems, such as mental retardation. Since then, the screening has helped save countless newborns.

Over the years, many other tests were added to the list. Now, states mandate that newborns be tested for anywhere between 28 and 54 different conditions, and the DNA samples are stored in state labs for anywhere from three months to indefinitely, depending on the state. [1]

Notice how government intrusions are always done under the guise of “protection” or “safety.”

[1] Cohen, Elizabeth. “The government has your baby’s DNA.” CNN. 3.04.2010. www.cnn.com/ 2010/HEALTH/02/04/baby.dna.government/index. html?hpt=Sbin