The Newborn heel prick test that is routinely conducted on infants is now facing an ethics risk.
Hitherto, this test is routinely administered and the blood sample is used for a number of genetic tests such as Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) to detect hypothyroidism and hence prevent cretinism, Trypsin to detect cystic fibrosis, for detection of phenylketonuria, an enzyme deficiency that can impair brain development as well as galactosemia and others.
This neonatal heel prick can potentially improve newborn screening and examine environmental toxins that can damage the fetal heart or factors that trigger childhood cancers.
A suit filed in Texas against alleged ‘DNA Warehousing’ is likely to cause about 5 million blood samples from neonates to be thrown away. The suit has also raised issues of ethics, and consent. This will put more parents in the loop so to speak. It is feared that this issue is threatening to erode the faith of parents in the newborn screening process itself; it is required that parents not only be educated about their options so that they have more say in what happens after their baby is born.