Settlement Reached Over Newborn Blood Screenings

Created: 01/13/2014 10:51 PM
By: Steph Crock

(ABC 6 News) -- A settlement has been reached in a case involving the state of Minnesota's use of blood samples left over from new born screenings. The Minnesota Department of Health had been using this information for research, but without parental consent. We spoke with an Austin man who is part of the lawsuit.

“Any child born between certain dates had their information compromised in that way, and so we knew that this was going to be a problem," said Marty Helle of Austin. He found out when his daughter was born, her left over blood samples were being used by the Minnesota Department of Health for research.

"As far as whether these things should be used as research or not is one thing we can debate another time, but here clearly the law says they were not supposed to do this without consent, which wasn't given here,"  said Helle.

More than a million samples had been collected illegally over time by the state. "We were suing to try and figure out, what was the state doing with these blood samples that were left over from newborn screenings and that's when we found that they had been collecting this information and using this information and doing the research since 1997," said Scott Kelly with the Farrish Johnson Law Office our of Mankato.

The law has since changed in light of this lawsuit. "After the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in our favor and said what they were doing was unauthorized, the legislature in 2012 changed the law and allows the department of health to retain the samples for 71 days," said Kelly.

''With the lawsuit behind us, we will now be able to devote our resources to operating and advancing the newborn screening program to ensure a healthy start in life for Minnesota babies," Minnesota Health Commissioner  Dr. Edward Ehlinger said in a statement.

However, those samples that were gathered illegally must now be tossed out, along with the 900,000 results that have been obtained.

"I'm glad the state is going to behave legally now and it bothers me that they weren't before," said Helle.

The state must also now pay close to one million dollars in attorney fees for the 21 families who sued the state.