Saginaw County man files suit against state over newborn blood samples

Apr 12, 2018

A Saginaw County man has filed suit in state and federal court over Michigan’s practice of seizing and storing blood samples from newborns, allegedly without proper consent.

The state has taken the blood of newborns for disease testing since the 1960’s. In 1984 it began keeping leftover blood in storage. The state is estimated to have over four million blood samples currently in storage.

Phillip Ellison is the plaintiff attorney. He said doctors will give parents a consent form after the blood sample has already been taken.

“After the blood has already been taken they want to know if they can use it for research purposes then. And at the bottom of the form it says regardless of which way you sign this we’re keeping the blood either way.”

The blood samples are required by state law to screen for serious disorders that may require early treatment. Officials with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services say at least 250 disorders are found every year because of the testing.

Ellison said he filed suit after finding out about the blood seizures when his son was born.

“So it’s our position in the state court case that we want to have our son's blood destroyed and challenge the law that allows for the taking of that blood without our consent.”

A spokesperson for MDHHS said in a written statement that parents are given “the option of signing a consent form if they want their child’s remaining blood spots to be made available for future medical research.” Additionally, parents can request MDHHS to destroy their child’s blood spots completely after testing.

Ellison said while the intention behind the sample taking is good he thinks parents need to be asked for consent.

“They stole the blood. They didn’t ask for permission, they didn’t ask for consent. And then after the fact said ‘hey after we’re done with this testing can we keep the blood?’ Come to find out they are selling it. That was a bridge too far for me.”

The state has a review board which approves research requests for the blood samples.

Officials with the State Health Department say the blood samples are sold to researchers for about ten dollars a sample.

Officials added they cannot comment on pending litigation.