Before my baby was born, our doctor informed us that newborns are screened at birth for a variety of diseases. This screening is done by drawing blood from the baby's heel and running a number of tests. I never thought too much about it until I read an article about Doctor Moser, the doctor made famous by the movie Lorenzo's Oil. This story stated that California sent these newborn blood spots to Moser's lab to develop a screening test for the disease known as ALD. A recent CNN article confirmed that the government does keep babies' DNA acquired from these newborn screenings. Obviously, this practice raises many privacy issues.

First of all, as genetic testing becomes more sophisticated, DNA profiles may be used to discriminate against and classify people. The Brown family, which was interviewed for the CNN article, stated they are afraid that their child's DNA profile will be used against her in the future. Their child carried a gene that put her at risk for cystic fibrosis, and it is possible that could affect her future medical insurance premiums.

Another issue is that the DNA samples have been distributed to scientists for medical research without parental permission or notification. Amy Gaviglio is a co-author of a study showing that more than 20 scientific papers have been published with newborn blood samples. Gaviglio says her understanding is that parental consent is needed only when names are attached to the DNA samples. However, there does not seem to be any uniform federal law governing the use of these samples across the country.

Parents in several states have filed lawsuits to stop the practice, and in states like Texas and Minnesota parents can request that their child's sample be destroyed. However, most states consider these samples to be the property of the state. That raises the question of whether the state would destroy "their" property just because parents have requested it. In my state of California, these samples are stored indefinitely, and the state can use anonymous samples for medical research without consent.

I find this practice a little disturbing because a person's DNA can be used to identify and target him or her for a variety of reasons. If I were asked, I would not want my child's DNA to be stored indefinitely in a government lab and be distributed to scientists without my knowledge. For now I can only hope that the state of California has a stringent procedure on who can get these samples and that the source of the samples are kept confidential.

What do you think? Do you want the government to hold on to your child's DNA?