Should newborn screening be optional?
About one day after a baby is born in Minnesota, nurses draw five drops of blood which are used to test for more than 50 hereditary conditions. This screening process is now in danger because some say it is an invasion of privacy, reports the Star Tribune.
Twila Brase, a former nurse and an advocate for privacy, leads a small group which plans to bring this issue to the legislature next year. She believes this testing is involuntary and carries future implications on insurance and employment.
Medical professionals argue the other side, saying that the testing detects disorders in about 140 children a year saving them from death or disability.
While Brase does not disagree with the testing, she does think it should be the parent's choice. Some legislators agree with Brase on the issue. Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville said, "Five years from now, when there's a breach in the computer system, and 200,000 of your youngest residents have been compromised, you wouldn't want parents to be totally unaware that the state is storing this data. That's when we're going to be in really big trouble."
Doctors see that as a fear of the unknown and cannot understand how that could shut down a screening program that is clearly beneficial. "People watch too much TV," said Dr. Piero Rinaldo, who oversees the Mayo Clinic's newborn screening program. "It's CSI syndrome."
This screening process has been done since 1965 and allows early detection and treatment of over 50 conditions. Only approximately 140 babies out of the 72,000 born in Minnesota each year have a genetic disorder, but the early detection can result in fewer future hospital visits.
As the debate continues, doctors and privacy-advocates speak out for their cause.