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Federal judge dismisses case about drawing newborns' blood without parental consent

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The state of Michigan has collected and stored the blood of newborns since 1984.

A federal judge dismissed a case last week about Michigan's practice of drawing infants' blood without parental consent. Parents are generally not told that their child's blood is being drawn until after it's already happened.

Tom Ellison is the attorney for the plaintiffs: nine children and their parents.

Ellison started pursuing the case when he learned his own son had his blood drawn without his consent.

"This case is not about newborn testing," says Ellison. "Personally, myself, and I think I can speak for all of my clients when I say we are all in favor of children being tested. What we are not in favor of is the government doing it secretly."

The case alleges that the blood is taken, tested, and sometimes sent to third parties for research without consent.

Ellison says, "It's already after the blood is out the door and on its way to the lab that they come to you and say, 'Hey, would you like to donate that blood that we just shipped out the door to research?' And what happens is they're asking the wrong question, they should've asked before they took it to begin with."

The Supreme Court has ruled that a parent has the fundamental right to make decisions about the care, custody, and control of their children.

The judge said the plaintiffs did not prove that the blood drawing violated that right.

"...it cannot be reasonably disputed (nor is it) that the State of Michigan has a legitimate interest in early detection of diseases in infants and that the blood testing is connected to that objective. Given the State’s interest in safeguarding infant health, and the minimally invasive nature of the procedure (a heel stick drawing 5-6 drops of blood), the blood test does not violate the parents’ right to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children."

Ellison says the case was dismissed before they were allowed to present evidence on the state's program.

The plaintiffs are planning on appealing their lawsuit to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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