State will destroy 1 million infant blood samples as part of settlement

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After a long legal battle to retain its newborn blood-screening program, the Minnesota Department of Health Department agreed to destroy more than 1 million infant blood samples and test results as part of a legal settlement, the Star Tribune reports.

Previously, every baby born in Minnesota had drops of blood placed on a specimen collection card, according to MDH. The cards were sent to the state to test for 53 rare but treatable disorders and stored for public health research unless parents specifically opted out.

In 2009, 21 families filed suit alleging the newborn screening program violated the Minnesota State Genetic Information Act of 2006.

The case made it all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which ruled in 2011 that the health department couldn't hold onto the blood samples without parental consent.

A year later, the Minnesota Legislature revised the law governing the program. The revised statute allows MDH to store blood samples with negative test results for 71 days -- the amount of time needed to assure confirmation of a positive diagnosis. Blood samples with positive results can be kept for two years to allow follow-up testing. If parental consent is received, samples may be retained for longer.

Also as part of the settlement, the state will pay nearly $1 million in legal fees, according the newspaper. No other monetary awards were made.

The samples being destroyed were collected prior to Nov. 16, 2011 -- the date of the state Supreme Court decision.

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