Saturday, December 20, 2008
The Bill Nobody Noticed: National DNA Databank
In April of 2008, President Bush signed into law S.1858 which allows the federal government to screen the DNA of all newborn babies in the U.S. This was to be implemented within 6 months meaning that this collection is now being carried out. Congressman Ron Paul states that this bill is the first step towards the establishment of a national DNA database.
S.1858, known as The Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act of 2007, is justified as a "national contingency plan" in that it represents preparation for any sort of public health emergency. The bill states that the federal government should "continue to carry out, coordinate, and expand research in newborn screening" and "maintain a central clearinghouse of current information on newborn screening... ensuring that the clearinghouse is available on the Internet and is updated at least quarterly". Sections of the bill also make it clear that DNA may be used in genetic experiments and tests.
Twila Brase, president of the Citizens' Council on Health Care warns that this new law represents the beginning of nationwide genetic testing. Brase states that S.1858 and H.R. 3825, the House version of the bill, will:
• Establish a national list of genetic conditions for which newborns and children are to be tested.
• Establish protocols for the linking and sharing of genetic test results nationwide.
• Build surveillance systems for tracking the health status and health outcomes of individuals diagnosed at birth with a genetic defect or trait.
• Use the newborn screening program as an opportunity for government agencies to identify, list, and study "secondary conditions" of individuals and their families.
• Subject citizens to genetic research without their knowledge or consent.
Brase states that under this bill, "The DNA taken at birth from every citizen is essentially owned by the government, and every citizen becomes a potential subject of government-sponsored genetic research." All 50 states are now routinely providing results of genetic screenings to the Department of Homeland Security and this bill will establish the legality of that practice plus include DNA.
Ron Paul has also vigorously argued against this bill making the following comments before the US House of Representatives:
"I cannot support legislation...that exceeds the Constitutional limitations on federal power or in any way threatens the liberty of the American people. I must oppose it."
"S. 1858 gives the federal bureaucracy the authority to develop a model newborn screening program. Madame Speaker, the federal government lacks both the constitutional authority and the competence to develop a newborn screening program adequate for a nation as large and diverse as the United States. …"
"Those of us in the medical profession should be particularly concerned about policies allowing government officials and state-favored interests to access our medical records without our consent … My review of S. 1858 indicates the drafters of the legislation made no effort to ensure these newborn screening programs do not violate the privacy rights of parents and children, in fact, by directing federal bureaucrats to create a contingency plan for newborn screening in the event of a 'public health' disaster, this bill may lead to further erosions of medical privacy. As recent history so eloquently illustrates, politicians are more than willing to take, and people are more than willing to cede, liberty during times of 'emergency."