The use and control of heel prick blood samples
Medicine and Law: World Association for Medical Law 2005 June; 24(2): 259-277
The human body is assuming new meanings and value. When tissue, such as hair, blood and saliva is subjected to DNA analysis, detailed intimate information can be revealed about a person that may predict information about behavioural traits and future disorders. Such genetic information may lead to the development of beneficial therapeutic treatments, but it may also lead to employment or insurance discrimination. Human tissue is commonly used by law enforcement agencies to detect perpetrators of crimes and to identify corpses. There are many sources of such tissue samples. One is from samples routinely collected from newborn babies for a test known as the "Guthrie test" or heel prick test. At about two days of age the child's heel is pricked and the resultant drops of blood are applied to filter paper attached to a test card. This is dried and analysed and, in New Zealand, the cards are stored indefinitely. The potential range of research purposes using such blood samples is increasing, and expanding markets have increased their value. This paper considers the status of the samples in light of recent developments in New Zealand and suggests appropriate approaches for retention and further use of the samples, or third party access to them.
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Legislation: New Zealand. An Act (No. 55 of 1995) -- (a) To Make Provision for the Taking of Blood Samples for Use in Criminal Investigations; and (b) To Authorize -- (i) The Establishment of a Databank of Information Derived From the Analysis of Blood Samples Taken From Certain Persons; and (ii) The Use of Information From That Databank in Criminal Investigations; and (c) To Provide for Matters Incidental Thereto. Dated 24 October 1995. (The Criminal Investigations (Blood Samples) Act 1995). Unknown author (1996)