Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Privacy Biotech Medicine

Newborns' Blood Used To Build Secret DNA Database 263

Posted by kdawson
from the texas-baby-blood-spots dept.
Kanel notes a summary up at New Scientist of an investigation by a Texas newspaper revealing that Texas health officials had secretly transferred hundreds of newborn babies' blood samples to the federal government to build a DNA database. Here's the (long and detailed) article in the Texas Tribune. From New Scientist: "The Texas Department of State Health Services routinely collected blood samples from newborns to screen for a variety of health conditions, before throwing the samples out. But beginning in 2002, the DSHS contracted Texas A&M University to store blood samples for potential use in medical research. These accumulated at rate of 800,000 per year. The DSHS did not obtain permission from parents, who sued the DSHS, which settled in November 2009. Now the Tribune reveals that wasn't the end of the matter. As it turns out, between 2003 and 2007, the DSHS also gave 800 anonymized blood samples to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory to help create a national mitochondrial DNA database. This came to light after repeated open records requests filed by the Tribune turned up documents detailing the mtDNA program. Apparently, these samples were part of a larger program to build a national, perhaps international, DNA database that could be used to track down missing persons and solve cold cases."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Newborns' Blood Used To Build Secret DNA Database

Comments Filter:
  • by Q-Hack! (37846) * on Monday March 01, 2010 @08:45PM (#31324824)

    But, how is a blood sample from somebody born in 2003 going to solve a cold case? I guess a seven year old is prone to murder.

    • by ak_hepcat (468765) <leif@@@denali...net> on Monday March 01, 2010 @08:49PM (#31324862) Homepage Journal

      Okay, we pardon it.

      But only because you haven't figured out that parents pass their genes on to their children, and that prior samples might be matched against 'new blood'

      • by Sad Loser (625938) * on Monday March 01, 2010 @09:10PM (#31325044)

        the reason to harvest cord blood rather than anything else is because it is free, easy to collect, and has more than average stem cells.

        if in the future one of these people needs a bone marrow transplant, they have a perfect match. Research causes are also in there, but I very much doubt the legal/forensic side of things was considered in all this, and usually medical databases are quite thoroughly tied down in this respect.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by pookemon (909195)
          Yes - however all the products that are derived from blood have a very finite life. For example Plasma extracted from blood (which is used in a significant variety of products produced by CSL in Australia) lasts around 90 days (IIRC). Blood used in transfusions lasts about 30 days, platelettes even less. Cord blood is used for type specific transfusions in other patients, rather than for the original donor and even though parents can pay for long term storage of their childs cord blood, the viability of
          • by Cyberax (705495)

            At -80C properly stored cord blood can survive for years without any problems.

            Blood and plasma for transfusions is not preserved at -80C.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymusing (1450747)

          Where did you read that they were storing cord blood? The article says blood spots [texastribune.org].

        • Really?? You're going to be able to give yourself bone marrow transplant from your own cord blood at age 30 or so??

          I really don't think so.

        • by epp_b (944299)

          if in the future one of these people needs a bone marrow transplant, they have a perfect match.

          Technically, yes, but it's not necessarily that simple. In an autologous transplant, where the patient receives their own cells, this is correct.

          But, in many cases, the entire purpose of the procedure is to replace the cells with those of a separate donor (allogeneic transplant), because the patient's bone marrow itself is the cause of the condition requiring a transplant in the first place.

        • by hansg (264039) <hans...gunnarsson@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday March 02, 2010 @02:11AM (#31326960)

          and usually medical databases are quite thoroughly tied down in this respect.

          I don't know much about this case, but in Sweden we have a national test for all newborns, where they collect blood to check for a few diseases (PKU, the google is your friend). When they have checked it, they store the information "for research purposes".

          When our minister of foreign affairs was killed, the Police requested samples from the database and got them.

          So, don't count on the database staying "for research purposes"...

          /Hans

    • by sopssa (1498795) *

      Why would they need to solve it now? They'll save it when child is born and have it handy years later.

      • by Michael Kristopeit (1751814) on Monday March 01, 2010 @09:38PM (#31325256)
        and how do you explain that to a child without having them conclude that society expects them to one day commit crimes?
        • by b4dc0d3r (1268512)

          "In the event someone kills you and mutilates your body beyond recognition, we will have the blood database to match you up and know you were brutally murdered instead of living with false hope for the rest of our lives that we might one day find out you just took a boat to a foreign country with the person you were dating at the time of whom we did not approve."

          I'm not going to claim an abundance of tact here, but the point is there are other ways of explaining it.

    • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Monday March 01, 2010 @09:11PM (#31325050)

      The article brings up the specter of privacy violations without really explanation that the combination of the anonymized and mitochondrial DNA makes identification difficult. In fact, the article makes it appear that mtDNA is somehow more definitive than nuclear DNA. Yes, it was a violation of rights to collect and store the samples.

      I'm wondering how 800 "anonymized" samples of mitochondrial DNA going to help solve any cold cases. First it's mitochondrial DNA which is not as distinctive as nuclear DNA. For humans, it links maternal parentage not individual characteristics. Second, it's "anonymized" meaning that using them in identification later is unlikely.

    • * To identify races?
      * To profile racial difference?
      * To track individuals (and/or families), crime involvement, education level, whatnots?
      * To look for certain special DNA strains?

      BIG BROTHER knows no bound, does it?

    • by DebateG (1001165)
      From reading the projects on the DNA Initiative's [dna.gov] website, it seems that they need mitochondrial DNA samples as test samples to develop various forensic techniques.
    • by AmigaMMC (1103025)
      The seven year old might not be a murder today but he could commit a murder 10 years from now and the government, I guess, would still have the DNA sample.

      Considering how many innocent people have gone to jail or death row for murders they didn't commit, I'm not sure I'm entirely against the idea of collecting DNA samples.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by besalope (1186101)

      But, how is a blood sample from somebody born in 2003 going to solve a cold case? I guess a seven year old is prone to murder.

      Mitochondrial DNA is different from the DNA everyone else knows about. When the Egg is fertilized, the Mitochondria from the mother is contained inside the egg. Thus, identical mitochondrial DNA will exist through the maternal hierarchy of families.

      Using Mitochondrial DNA, you can trace back and find some relatives (not all, but a fair amount). The mtDNA database can scan mtDNA samples from crime scenes and compare the results against the newborn mtDNA to see if any of their family members had committed

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      More importantly, a law has already been broken and the newborn is the victim. HIPPA forbids sharing these data. Someone should go to prison for this egregious assault on the civil rights of Americans.

      Don't give me that "civil liberties" crap; they're not just liberties, they're RIGHTS. And Texas is violating them. Texas, hypocritically and ironically claiming to be the state most individualistic. What a crock.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Monday March 01, 2010 @08:51PM (#31324880) Homepage

    This is actually not that unusual. Typically if they take a tissue sample from you at the hospital, it belongs to them, and you have no property rights over it. For an extreme case, check out the story of Henrietta Lacks [wikipedia.org], who died of cancer in 1951. They took cells from her tumor, kept them alive indefinitely, and commercialized them. Her relatives didn't know about any of this until decades later.

    As TFA notes, these blood samples were anonymized, and mitochondrial DNA cannot be traced back to individuals.

    So there was no privacy issue, and no issue of property rights. And therefore the issue was...?

    • by yndrd1984 (730475) on Monday March 01, 2010 @08:58PM (#31324956)

      So there was no legal privacy issue, and no issue of legal property rights. And therefore the issue was moral or ethical, or that the legal system should be changed?

      • by bcrowell (177657) on Monday March 01, 2010 @09:41PM (#31325282) Homepage

        So there was no legal privacy issue, and no issue of legal property rights. And therefore the issue was moral or ethical, or that the legal system should be changed?

        Okay, let's split up the two issues, which are different.

        Privacy:

        IMO the absence of a privacy violation here is not just a legality. There was no violation of privacy at all in this case. Not violation in any legal sense, and no violation in any ethical sense. The mitochondrial DNA cannot be traced to individuals, so the individuals' privacy has been maintained. It's no more a violation of privacy than if someone had gone to the doctor with a case of syphilis, and the doctor duly reported it as a statistic to some government agency, with no personally identifiable information.

        Property:

        Re the property side of things, sure, please go ahead and make a case for this. What is the ethical problem with the current legal setup?

        It seems to me that the current legal setup is the best one in terms of ethics. It allows medical research to be carried out, without making it necessary for doctors or hospitals to beg and plead and negotiate for the rights to study someone's cancer cells or whatever. Ethically, I don't believe that these people have any property claim. I expel my body wastes into the sewers without any expectation that the city will negotiate with me individually for the possible economic value of those wastes. When I cut my hair and nails, the cuttings go in the trash, and I don't expect the city to enter into a bargaining process with me about what they're worth. IMO we have a situation where there's no ethical expectation that parents will retain any property rights to blood samples taken in the hospital, and where there may be benefits to society in using those samples in various ways. Therefore I don't think it's ethical to allow individuals to veto the use of the samples from their kids. Should they be able to opt out? I don't see why. It would have a negative effect on society by biasing the sample.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          You are wrong. When a person discards human waste, hair, nail, urine, feces, saliva, blood, cancer cells or whatever there is no legal expectation of privacy or property as you say. However when a tissue sample is given there is an expectation that it will be used ONLY for the purpose for which it was given. Any other use without the explicit permission of the owner is wrong and should be prohibited.

          If a person drinks from a soda can and then discards that can then any DNA on the can, assuming traceability,

          • by bcrowell (177657) on Monday March 01, 2010 @10:50PM (#31325764) Homepage

            You are wrong. When a person discards human waste, hair, nail, urine, feces, saliva, blood, cancer cells or whatever there is no legal expectation of privacy or property as you say. However when a tissue sample is given there is an expectation that it will be used ONLY for the purpose for which it was given. Any other use without the explicit permission of the owner is wrong and should be prohibited. [...] In the case of whether a doctor would need permission for a tissue sample to be entered into a database or some other and especially commercial use would be clear. A person's tissue is his property and cannot be used for purposes other than what he has explicitly permitted. In the case of the cancer patient you mentioned her body would become property of her estate and any use commercial or otherwise would need to be approved by the patient's heirs. If profits are made from a tissue sample then the heirs are entitled to royalties.

            The post you're responding to was specifically about the ethical issues involved, not the legal ones. However, your post seems to be entirely a description of what you think the law says. You're incorrect about the law. (I assume we're talking about U.S. law here, since TFA was about something that happened in Texas.) Common law has said since Haynes' Case, in 1613, that bodies and parts of bodies are not legal property. This principle was upheld in the U.S. in 1990, in Moore v. Regents of the University of California [wikipedia.org], which ruled that a cancer patient had no property right relating to the commercial use of his cancer cells. The most recent case to uphold the same principle was Washington University v. Catalona (2006), in which patients sued to get back their samples of prostate tissue, blood, and DNA, and the court ruled that the samples were not their property.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Aside from property rights, there's also an implied right to medical confidentiality.

    • by rm999 (775449)

      A headline about hospital workers stealing the blood of babies is much scarier than "database of fingerprints secretly kept by Texas A&M researchers", even if the privacy implications are far more benign.

    • Her family should get a royalty every time a cancer cell makes another unauthorized copy of her DNA.
    • by zill (1690130)

      Typically if they take a tissue sample from you at the hospital, it belongs to them, and you have no property rights over it.

      That's because I gave them explicit consent to use said tissue sample to facilitate my diagnosis. If they use it for any other purpose without my consent then it's a breach of contract.

      • by Nadaka (224565)

        Did you actually read the full 30 page contract of legalese, or just skim through and initial the last page?

        • Depends on how they worded the consent to obtain the tissue. See here [leememorial.org] for a fairly typical surgical consent form (I don't work there, I just found their forms clear and well-written). Notice that the hospital is permitted to dispose of the tissue, nothing else. (Consent to diagnosis and treatment being covered by another document, or even by the mere fact of admission.)

          Most of the legalese at a hospital has to do with your bill or malpractice. Consent to procedures generally must be written in layman'
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      This is actually not that unusual.
      ...
      So there was no privacy issue, and no issue of property rights.

      In the 1950s.
      Using a 60 year old case as the basis for your argument is intellectually dishonest.
      Times have changed since then. Now there are certainly privacy, property, and ethical issues.

      With your logic, I could use the Tuskegee experiments [wikipedia.org] as justification for clinical testing on human subjects without their informed consent. Or I could use the Tuskegee experiments as an example of unethical behavior becoming public and Congress stepping in to pass laws regulating experimentation on humans.

      • by Macrat (638047)

        Times have changed since then.

        Have they changed? Or is it just more mainstream?

        The food industry experiments on you all the time just for profit. Go try to find bread in the store that doesn't have chemically altered high fructose corn syrup in it.

        Not to mention the doctors becoming drug pushers for the drug companies.

        The list goes on. All without your consent.

    • by mveloso (325617) on Monday March 01, 2010 @09:30PM (#31325184)

      Actually, it's not as straight-forward as you think. There are a few people who have successfully asserted rights to their blood chemistry, etc. The NYT did an article on it a while back, which I can't find.

      The medical profession doesn't like this, because it complicates their finances. Your line is what they tell the public, because it benefits the medical community.

      Your blood chemistry, etc is your property, if you want it to be.

    • by shadowbearer (554144) on Monday March 01, 2010 @09:38PM (#31325254) Homepage Journal

      Typically if they take a tissue sample from you at the hospital, it belongs to them

        No. It "belongs" to the being it was taken from. The being it was taken from has first "copyright"/"patent"/"trademark" to it (add whatever terms the lawyers feel necessary, here)

            It does not matter who sequenced it first. It does not matter whether it has unique properties. It does not matter who it was taken from, whether they consented to it, or not.

        No corporation, government, nor any other entity, can own anything about me that I do not give explicitly give them rights to.

        Legislators can pontificate as much as they want to, there are things that we - as human beings - won't give up. This is one of them. History proves that.

        If those in power wish to [continue] to do so, they will suffer the same fate as their predecessors have; they will eventually be replaced.

        Fools.

      SB

      • by Korbeau (913903)

        No. It "belongs" to the being it was taken from. The being it was taken from has first "copyright"/"patent"/"trademark" to it (add whatever terms the lawyers feel necessary, here)

        It does not matter who sequenced it first. It does not matter whether it has unique properties. It does not matter who it was taken from, whether they consented to it, or not.

        No corporation, government, nor any other entity, can own anything about me that I do not give explicitly give them rights to.

        Now if you could just stop flushing parts of yourself down the toilet everyday and dropping hairs everywhere that would help your point ...

        You see yourself as your own owner? I'm wondering what Heidegger would have thought of that ...

      • No corporation, government, nor any other entity, can own anything about me that I do not give explicitly give them rights to.

        What if you take a shit and someone uses it to study diet habits in a certain area? Would you be ok if the waste treatment facility just signed it over or would you want the researchers to contact every residence/business/etc on the sewage line and have them consent to it? Should they contact every person who could have used used the toilets that are connected to the study?

        Tl;dr You can't have explicit control of everything about you.

      • by langelgjm (860756) on Monday March 01, 2010 @10:44PM (#31325712) Journal
        On the legal side, Moore v. Regents of the University of California [wikipedia.org] is one of the most important cases on this issue.

        As for your comment, you have an interesting political philosophy. Ideas like property and ownership are neither inherent nor immutable. Absent government, society, and laws, things like "property", "ownership" and "mine/yours" are pretty much defined by what you can physically control or prevent others from taking from you. So sure, you own your shit (figuratively and literally) as long as you can stop anyone else from taking it. State of nature and all that.

        Of course none of us are in the state of nature anymore, we all live in societies with governments and legal systems that define certain sets of property rights and interests. I don't claim to be up to date on ownership of tissue issues, just recall that case from a class I took a while ago. But my point is that you make a philosophical claim about the nature of property and base it on a relationship between a human and an object. But property is fundamentally social: it is about a relationship between a human and another human with respect to some object.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hurricane78 (562437)

        No need to throw in bullshit fantasy words like “copyright/trademarks/patents” in there.
        It’s a physical object. The word is: OW.NER.SHIP.

        You own your body. That is perhaps the single most foundational law of all laws ever written. (Countless laws use it as a base. E.g. all basic rights!)

        So you own your blood sample. plain and simple. If they take it away from you, even as a baby, without your agreement, that is theft. Plain and simple. And a huge invasion of privacy too. Perhaps even bodil

    • by haruchai (17472)

      It was the 1950's, in America and Henrietta was black - she didn't have any rights but the right to die. Although, I admit, many were treated badly back in those days, including lower-class Caucasians

  • by FlightTest (90079) on Monday March 01, 2010 @08:54PM (#31324924) Homepage

    Because the TFA certainly doesn't.

    How, exactly, are anonymized blood samples going to used to track down missing persons or solve cold cases, or do anything else that hinges on tying a person to that blood sample? That is assuming you believe the samples were actually anonymized, which there's no way to know for sure.

    I'm not defending what was done, but the only real use I can see would be statistical evaluation. Possibly a good idea, but the implementation (doing it without consent) is clearly wrong.

    • If I remember correctly, Mitochondrial DNA is from the mother. Therefore, if a child's record happens to match up with, say a kidnap/run-away - it helps to remove the potentiality of a murder, keep the case a missing persons, and provide some possible insight into the general geographic region.

      That may be a lot of comfort to a family.

      I think it is horrible that these samples are taken without consent, their use obscured, and have deep qualms about any form of DNA database. But, I can see how they could s

      • by Nikker (749551)
        Apparently the samples are anonymous so linking a blood sample won't work in this case.
        • Apparently the samples are anonymous so linking a blood sample won't work in this case.

          Link? No, you are correct. But if your daughter went missing when she was 8. And then 10 years later you found out that a child was born who had her DNA? I could see that being a relief, a ray of hope to a family. Knowing it came from Texas? Texas is big, but a lot smaller than all of the USA/World.

          I'm just saying, this could be valuable in such scenarios - regardless of if the donor could be identified.

          • First, for the purposes of this database, the samples were anonymized. You don't know if her sample was in the database at all. Second, the sample was mitochondrial DNA not nuclear. Mitochondrial only establishes maternal relationships for humans. So in your example if you have a child you think is your daughter, you can test your nuclear DNA or her mother's nuclear DNA against her nuclear DNA to establish paternity. You can test her mitochondrial DNA against her siblings or her maternal relatives. If

      • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Monday March 01, 2010 @09:46PM (#31325316)

        Therefore, if a child's record happens to match up with, say a kidnap/run-away

        Since the samples were anonymized, there is no child's record but a record of an unknown donor. If you have a kidnap victim/run-away, you can test their nuclear DNA directly with the parent or with a maternal relative with the mitochondrial DNA. The database has no real use in this case. At best if you compare the child with a sample in the database, you might get a hit but you don't know who supplied the sample in the database.

      • You figured out why this story hardly even matters at all. Mitochondrial DNA is prokaryotic and does not undergo cross-linkage. Everyone's eukaryotic DNA is all jumbled up and unique, but prokaryotic DNA doesn't change down the maternal line. And you share great-great-....-great-grandmothers with a lot of people, probably a lot of the people you see commenting here. There are only a limited number of haplotypes in the human population; about 40. That could be encoded in six bits of information, although the
    • by Xamusk (702162) on Monday March 01, 2010 @09:02PM (#31324986)
      Probably, "anonymized" to them really means that only the person's name was erased. Yet, as most slashdotters know, there are other ways to track a person from other information. For example, the name may be gone, but if the hospital and birth date are yet in the database, it narrows down considerably the number of people being searched. And, as we all know, the db probably will be abused at some time.
      • by Rich0 (548339)

        Of course I have no idea what anonymized means in this case, but typically anything that is personally identifiable gets stripped. At least, this is what happens in companies that follow EU privacy regulations so that they can work with EU specimens (the EU is pretty strict about this stuff).

        US law really needs to be tightened up - it should be illegal to use specimens for ANY purpose without the consent of the donor, even if it doesn't "cost" them anything. While they're at it, perhaps they can pass a la

        • You can legally compel your doctor to release the lab results to you. If s/he refuses to do so, or tries to charge more than a nominal fee, call your state board of medical licensure. The lab, OTOH, doesn't know who you are, and (if not a hospital-attached lab) probably was not paid by you directly (otherwise you'd have drawn your own blood and submitted it to them). So the lab has no legal obligation to you.
    • That is assuming you believe the samples were actually anonymized, which there's no way to know for sure.

      Bingo. Even if they THINK they anonymized the samples, it doesn't mean they did a particularly good job of it.
      The imdb+netflix fiasco should be proof to anyone that privacy lives in a pandora's box - once you let even a piece of it out, all you are left with is hope that it won't get exploited.

      • by Macrat (638047)

        Bingo. Even if they THINK they anonymized the samples, it doesn't mean they did a particularly good job of it.

        They used the highest quality white out on the computer screen.

    • by pla (258480) on Monday March 01, 2010 @09:14PM (#31325062) Journal
      How, exactly, are anonymized blood samples going to used to track down missing persons or solve cold cases, or do anything else that hinges on tying a person to that blood sample?

      TFA actually refers to two separate programs.

      The first, and more chilling of the two, Texas hospitals have sent all newborn blood samples for entry into a DNA database since 2003. The second part, which came to light only because of the suit by parents over the first point, involves 800 anonymous samples for an mtDNA database. That part sounds reasonably innocuous (if still lacking in prior consent).


      So, how "should" we feel about this? We should feel pretty damned pissed, and each and every one of us should flood our states, towns, and local hospitals with FOIA requests about possible variants of similar programs in our own areas. We should also (but of course won't) riot in the streets demanding the immediate destruction of this database and all samples taken, as well as a goddamned constitutional amendment explicitly granting us "genetic privacy" rights from both government and private (aka commercial) entities.

      Instead, this will just fade from view without anyone really noticing or caring, and will expand until it contains each and every human in the country (and eventually, on the planet). And we'll still fail to stop illegal immigration or terrorist attacks, but you can bet your last penny it'll affect your ability to get loans and various types of insurance.

      "Oh, sorry, your Genetic Rating (tm) says you probably won't live long enough to pay us back, can't help you with that new car".
      • by sowth (748135) *

        Look on the bright side, if you become Das Fuhrer, you can have your own harem of women!

      • by DeadboltX (751907)

        "Oh, sorry, your Genetic Rating (tm) says you probably won't live long enough to pay us back, can't help you with that new car".

        If someone won't live long enough to pay back a loan, isn't that a good reason to deny someone a loan?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ShakaUVM (157947)

        >>So, how "should" we feel about this?

        Well, I for one trust that the government will only use their secret DNA database in an ethical and prudent fashion.

    • I'm reading between the lines here, but this is an educated guess.

      They want a large random sample of mitochondrial DNA, possibly with racial information attached to each sample. Then when they get DNA from a crime scene, they'll be able to answer questions such as "How common is this mitochondrial genotype?" and "What race was the person who left this DNA, and how certain can we be of the answer?"

      Mitochondrial DNA is much easier to obtain, especially from degraded samples, than nuclear DNA, but it is not ne

    • by zoloto (586738)
      Because this is the exact response the government wants? Because once they tiptoe their way to a quick win to a full on DNA database it'll be too late? Because other examples of what some people call government encroaching on our rights is like microsoft's feature creep, all unnecessary and without merit? I'm all about what seems like a good idea on paper but you throw the government into the mix and this just begs to be taken advantage of.
    • There is no reason for them to even want to trace the samples to individuals at this point, the DNA is being analyzed to design a database. They need to know how to slice and dice the DNA to provide a statistically reasonable method of identifying individuals, so they need to find how to amplify segments so that they identify individuals, not species or ethnicities. The ultimate goal is to go into a court and be able to say that there is only a 1 in 6 billion chance that this DNA belongs to anybody else tha

    • The lack of consent is troubling. However, one of the early problems with DNA was the statistical validity - whatever technique you use, you have to have some idea of the variability that's present in the population before you can draw a conclusion about the likelihood of a match. It might very well have been useful to have 800 samples of mtDNA from a random selection of people.
    • by smchris (464899)

      Assuming they are irretrievably anonymized is the rub, but there is also the question of what demographic data is linked to the numbered samples. Various entities might still find such a database useful. 23andMe.com already offers genealogical search trees among their population. Norwegian-American paternal, Old New England (strong Maine concentration) maternal here and even with matches no closer than 4th cousin, my matches among their rather small population are invariably either Scandinavian or have a

  • This is all part of a plot from the illuminati! The fact that Bush is from Texas proves it!! I am so vindicated.

    Actually it's more like the give-and-take between law enforcement, who mainly thinks about how to do their job more easily, and privacy activists, who mainly think of things in terms of how they could be used to take away privacy. A fairly natural process.
  • by PPH (736903) on Monday March 01, 2010 @09:03PM (#31325006)
    whosyourdaddy
    • by compro01 (777531)

      Actually, that should be whosyourmommy. Mitochondrial DNA is inherited from the mother.

  • by joocemann (1273720) on Monday March 01, 2010 @09:07PM (#31325034)

    Anyone else agree or disagree?

    Discuss... what kind of punishment should this yield?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by rec9140 (732463)

      >Anyone else agree or disagree?
      >Discuss... what kind of punishment should this yield?

      Some thing far more terminal, painful, and with extreme prejudice, and being Texas I think the residents are probably well equipped to handle it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by lennier (44736)

        Some thing far more terminal, painful, and with extreme prejudice, and being Texas I think the residents are probably well equipped to handle it.

        ... forced attendance at a chili cook-off and have to eat it all?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by freedom_india (780002)

      Nope. Will NEVER happen.
      Why?
      1) Its Texas.
      2) The officials were helping the Govt. commit a crime. You can't convict a Govt.
      3) Even if everything goes OK, the state dept will cite official secrets as a reason to get the case thrown out.

      Tell me how many officials have been convicted so far in:
      1) Public prosecutors firing
      2) CIA agent outing.
      3) Katrina failures
      4) Gitmo tortures

    • by BitterOak (537666)

      Anyone else agree or disagree?

      Discuss... what kind of punishment should this yield?

      And that's precisely what this program is supposed to accomplish. As the article says, they are hoping it will help solve some cold cases. That would be great, but that doesn't mean there aren't privacy issues involved. Should this DNA be used in civil suits, for instance? And what if it is sold to insurance companies? Simply putting more people in jail doesn't necessarily justify the means.

    • Prison. Yes, sir.

      In addition, I think that since we are talking criminal action here, we should also take DNA samples from the perpetrators of this heinous crime and see if there is some genetic correlation between the people involved and the crimes they committed, then use this data to weed out such miscreants from society before they can do any more damage.

      Especially in Texas.

    • Well, in my opinion, either a court must decide to destroy all samples, or the public must interpret a couple of amendments, and burn the storage place down to the ground.

      Unfortunately the first group is bought by terrorists (parts of the government). And the second group is a herd of cattle caught in their own consumption. :/

  • I don't care what they did with her blood.

    Not. One. Bit.

    • If she dies, having been denied live saving care based on the data they have on her, would that make you care?

  • by rritterson (588983) on Monday March 01, 2010 @09:49PM (#31325348)
    Let me explain to you why this is not as scary and outrageous as it would first seem. The summary and article are very good ones, but don't provide enough context for a non-expert to understand how serious/non-serious it is:

    As the summary indicates and RTFA seems to confirm, DSHS collected the samples for use in anonymous human medical research. This is done all of the time, as another poster commented (and gave the great example of HeLa cells). Typically, an oversight committee reviews a great many details about your research plan and ensures your collection methods are sufficiently anonymous, and your research is done in such a way as to avoid revealing the identity of the sample if at all possible. (Usually, users are separated from the database maintainers, and the users never even know the identities of the samples).

    As one example, co-worker of mine receives nasal swabs of infected children in Nicaragua, under the auspices of WHO and CDC. He screens them using very expensive diagnostic assays that aren't viable in the clinic but are useful for basic research. His lab has discovered several new viruses in these samples that weren't previously discovered due to geographic bias in clinical cohorts (you sample the people most likely to be able to pay for the cure). He never knows the names of the children, just age, symptoms, and previous infections. He has to renew his certification to work with human samples once a year to ensure he knows all relevant legal and ethical regulations, and must update his research plan regularly, and receive annual approval from the oversight committee, even if he doesn't change anything. (And must stop all research if he procrastinates and certification lapses) However, without being able to use these samples, both basic research and clinically relevant research would be hampered. DSHS probably operates in the same way.

    The issue here is that these samples were passed to the federal government and they used them to build a DNA database. People sued primarily because DNA is considered very personal information in this country and having the government track you using it is a current moral panic/boogeyman. (Partially warranted, partially not). In this case, however, they were using mitochondrial DNA, which is separate from your normal chromosomal DNA. Because sperm have no mitochrondia, all of your mitochondrial DNA is passed matrilineally (i.e. from mother to child-- sons cannot pass it on at all). Because you only have one copy, it does not undergo recombination during sperm/egg generation, and thus changes very very slowly. As a result, people like the National Geographic Society are using the information to trace human migration patterns throughout history using mitochondrial sequence information (google it). However, because it's so similar from person to person ---it is unlikely to be able to be traced directly back to you or identify you the way your chromosomal DNA is--- instead, it can tell where your mother's mother's mother's mother's mother's mother came from, i.e. your ethnicity. With enough samples it may even be able to tell whether you are a recent immigrant, a long term american, etc. This means that, using this database as a source, police may one day collect mtDNA from a crime scene and know they are looking for a person from Eastern Europe that is 1st-3rd generation american. That is, it can be used to narrow suspects, but can't be used to identify you directly.

    So, in the end, the information (at least to me, as a molecular biologist) is relatively harmless and perhaps even good, in balance. However, given the serious objections people would likely have if they had known their information would be used in this way, the oversight committee should have required additional consent to use and collect this information for each person's sample they collected (and insured the people who gave consent gave informed consent). That would have avoided the mess entirely, and been more ethical.
    • by B1ackDragon (543470) on Monday March 01, 2010 @11:06PM (#31325868)
      I was going to say something about the relative rates of drift in mitochondrial dna, but I think you've hit it spot on. I take it there aren't any microsatellites in mtDNA?

      Anyway, for those interested, here's [pubget.com] an interesting paper regarding a relatively variant region in mitochondrial dna, but for butterflies, rather than humans. Notice that even in butterflies (which have a generation per year), there are some variants which are present over a vast portion of the range of the species---definitely not useful for identifying individuals.
    • This is YOUR genetic information. It is you soul possession upon entering this world. Then they take it from you. If they had asked it would not have seemed just the theft ... theft from a new born baby. How morally bankrupt is that? Had they just had the common sense to ask, most people would have said yes. Most people will help a homeless person and curse a thief. Learn the difference or expect people to laugh when your possessions are stolen, even though you might have been willing to give them away. Rem

  • If your DNA has nothing to hide, you should have nothing to fear. [/sarcasm]
  • It's totally obvious. It's Texas, from where the GOP will launch their army of clones from. They already have insurgents working in Oklahoma...I've met them in battle.

    Hopefully we still have at least 10-15 years at the current level the Texas Legislature is funding the project on. My insiders tell me Haliburton is using off-shore stem cell research facilities to close the time gap, however.

  • If the baby had been born with a gun, this wouldn't have happened. Those permissive parents were asking for it by giving birth in an elitist hospital.

  • I have one question here.

    1) Do you believe that it is inappropriate for a democratically elected government to build, maintain, and use a DNA Database? (If so, why?)
    2) Do you think this was intentionally covered up, or that no one thought it was important enough to warrant mentioning.

    Outside of military projects, governments do not generally go out of thier way to keep secrets. The vast majority of what any given government does is mundane and not especially important, surprising, or noteworthy. So in

"Summit meetings tend to be like panda matings. The expectations are always high, and the results usually disappointing." -- Robert Orben

Working...