Reporting Liz Collin
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota’s Attorney General could get involved with the fight to protect the blood of newborns. For the last 14 years, the state’s Department of Health has stored the DNA of all babies born in Minnesota without permission from parents. A ruling from the Minnesota Supreme Court last month will change that.
But it’s the more than one million samples already being stored that are still surrounded by questions.
As the father of four young kids, Matt Brzica will admit their births were a blur. But it’s what he discovered about their blood samples he’s been looking to clear up.
“It is our property; it’s not the governments,” Brzica said. “I think it was certainly an overreach by the government.”
The Brzicas are one of nine Minnesota families that sued the Department of Health for storing and possibly doing studies with their children’s samples without their permission.
“Right now we’ve stopped doing anything with those stored samples until we get some better direction or more complete direction from the district court,” said Department of Health Commissioner Edward Ehlinger.
Newborn babies will still be screened for 53 diseases right after birth. Before, the Department of Health would store the samples once those are complete. Then some would be used to develop new tests and improve current ones.
Now, a Supreme Court ruling will keep that from happening right away.
“The other spots, unless we get informed consent to keep them, will have to be destroyed,” Ehlinger said.
The commissioner still isn’t able to say what it means for the future of the one million samples already on file.
The Farrish/Johnson Law Firm in Mankato took the case two years ago. It found that 13 other states have been storing baby DNA without consent. It’s why they believe what’s happening in Minnesota will have implications across the country.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime case for us because we have a chance to change public policy,” said attorney Scott Kelly.
While, the Health Department says privacy has always been important, attorneys argue there are dangers where these tests could lead without checks and balances. It’s why Brzica will be in the legal fight as long as it takes.
“As my wife likes to say ‘Just ask, just ask,’” said Brzica.
The attorneys from Mankato will meet with the Minnesota Attorney General on Tuesday looking for help in implementing the new changes at the Minnesota Department of Health.
Ehlinger said parents will soon start getting new brochures in the hospital explaining the changes. They will also have to sign a paper before any sample will be stored.