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Newborns' Blood Used To Build Secret DNA Database

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the texas-baby-blood-spots dept.

Privacy 263

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."

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pardon my ignorance (3, Insightful)

Q-Hack! (37846) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Cheater (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31324834)

I came actually came first... you are a dirty cheater.

Re:Cheater (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31324876)

Since you prematurely ejaculate, it's no wonder you get cheated on.

Re:Cheater (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31325438)

that's what HE said.

Re:pardon my ignorance (3, Interesting)

ak_hepcat (468765) | more than 4 years ago | (#31324862)

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'

Re:pardon my ignorance (5, Insightful)

Sad Loser (625938) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:pardon my ignorance (3, Informative)

pookemon (909195) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325274)

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 these samples are questionnable at best. The other issue is that if the illness that requires the blood transfusion is caused by genes then the use of the childs original cord blood may be pointless.

Re:pardon my ignorance (2, Informative)

Anonymusing (1450747) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325286)

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

Re:pardon my ignorance (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325310)

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.

Re:pardon my ignorance (1)

epp_b (944299) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325522)

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.

Re:pardon my ignorance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31324882)

mtDNA can be used to identify maternal lineage. So the baby's mtDNA, if maternally related to the criminal, can be used to find the right family at least.

Re:pardon my ignorance (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31324934)

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

Re:pardon my ignorance (4, Insightful)

Michael Kristopeit (1751814) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325256)

and how do you explain that to a child without having them conclude that society expects them to one day commit crimes?

Re:pardon my ignorance (1)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325424)

"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.

pardon my ignorance (4, Insightful)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

What's the purpose of the secret DNA database? (2, Interesting)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325104)

* 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?

Re:What's the purpose of the secret DNA database? (4, Funny)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325402)

BIG BROTHER knows no bound, does it?

Hence the need for DNA for testing! Without DNA testing, you can never be sure whether it's your big brother, or just some unrelated weirdo spying on you. Makes a big difference.

Re:pardon my ignorance (1)

DebateG (1001165) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325114)

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.

Its called familial DNA matching. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31325130)

you dont always need the DNA of the subject your trying to find. If you find someone who has similar DNA (ie a blood relative) then you have reduced your search down to a handful of people.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DNA_profiling#Familial_searching

Re:pardon my ignorance (1)

dazlari (711032) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325292)

Can't you see, "Cold Case" is being used as a euphemism for Vampire!! They keep them under the hospitals.

not unusual, no privacy or property issue (5, Interesting)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 4 years ago | (#31324880)

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...?

Re: no LEGAL privacy or property issue - YET (4, Insightful)

yndrd1984 (730475) | more than 4 years ago | (#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?

Re: no LEGAL privacy or property issue - YET (3, Interesting)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325282)

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: no LEGAL privacy or property issue - YET (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31325376)

tl;dr.

and you lose.

Re: no LEGAL privacy or property issue - YET (1)

rbphilip (530254) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325328)

this is such a non-issue. Just living in this world you leave DNA behind you willy-nilly doing whatever you do just to survive. Why does it matter at all if anonymous samples of blood from medical waste is saved or has data recorded from it? How is is OK to destroy the samples, but not OK to use them for research?

Re:not unusual, no privacy or property issue (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31325014)

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

Re:not unusual, no privacy or property issue (1)

rm999 (775449) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325058)

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.

Henrietta Lacks (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325122)

Her family should get a royalty every time a cancer cell makes another unauthorized copy of her DNA.

Re:not unusual, no privacy or property issue (1)

zill (1690130) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325158)

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.

Re:not unusual, no privacy or property issue (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325238)

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

Re:not unusual, no privacy or property issue (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325540)

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's terms in order to be considered valid by a court.

Re:not unusual, no privacy or property issue (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325178)

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.

Re:not unusual, no privacy or property issue (1)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325308)

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 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.

I didn't argue that it was morally OK because it had been done before. I explained what the law says, and gave an example.

Re:not unusual, no privacy or property issue (1)

Macrat (638047) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325582)

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.

Re:not unusual, no privacy or property issue (3, Interesting)

mveloso (325617) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:not unusual, no privacy or property issue (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325406)

we should all patent and copyright our DNA, then when some chick gets knocked up sue her for copyright infringement.

Re:not unusual, no privacy or property issue (4, Funny)

FiloEleven (602040) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325484)

I have researched the topic and drawn up a Venn Diagram of "people clever enough to copyright their DNA" and "people with the opportunity to knock up some chicks":
O O

Re:not unusual, no privacy or property issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31325462)

How convenient that you can't find this mysterious article that supposedly validates your claim. Provide a citation or you're essentially a liar.

Re:not unusual, no privacy or property issue (5, Insightful)

shadowbearer (554144) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325254)

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

Re:not unusual, no privacy or property issue (0, Troll)

AnotherUsername (966110) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325352)

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.

I keep hearing around here about this whole revolution thing that's supposed to change everything...and yet it never happens. If this keeps up, I'm going to start just dismissing these threats of revolution as just idle talk, meant to make the speaker feel better about himself, and nothing more.

Re:not unusual, no privacy or property issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31325572)

Dude, you shit everyday, and it has plenty of your genetic material in it. If you want you lifetime's worth of shit back, just let me know where do you want it dumped. Is your basement fine with you, kind sir?

You're just silly. Genetic materials are given up routinely by you, unconsciously, wherever you go. If you don't like it that way, you'd have to die first. Same goes for the atoms in your body. I've got at least one oxygen atom that belonged to you, to Julia Roberts, and to Adolf Hitler in my body. Same goes for you. This whole expectation of yours, summarized as "it's mine, mine, mine" isn't worth much in light of the reality of things. If you insist in living in sterile conditions -- fine, but you pay for it with your own money please. The notion that you somehow own the IP rights to your genetic material is idiotic.

Re:not unusual, no privacy or property issue (1)

magus_melchior (262681) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325444)

You didn't mention that the Lacks cancer cells were unusual in this way: they don't die under normal conditions, so they never needed to be preserved by freezing. That's why the hospital et al. saw so much value in them-- the cells may hold clues in terms of delaying or stopping human aging, a modern "Fountain of Youth", as it were.

The issue described in TFA, as often is the case when parents are involved, is disclosure. Most parents won't have that much of a problem with the practice you've described-- but hackles are raised if this sort of thing involving their children is done without their knowledge or consent.

And as a matter of fact, the Lacks family, for the most part, either was unhappy with the consequences of being a part of the research (too much publicity) or couldn't understand what was going on. Here [npr.org] is a Fresh Air interview of a freelancer who wrote a book on Henrietta Lacks.

Someone enlighten me (5, Insightful)

FlightTest (90079) | more than 4 years ago | (#31324924)

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.

Re:Someone enlighten me (1)

Felix Da Rat (93827) | more than 4 years ago | (#31324982)

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 still provide some value.

Re:Someone enlighten me (1)

Nikker (749551) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325170)

Apparently the samples are anonymous so linking a blood sample won't work in this case.

Re:Someone enlighten me (1)

Felix Da Rat (93827) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325312)

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.

Re:Someone enlighten me (3, Insightful)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Mitochondrial DNA is from the mother (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325492)

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 information content in a given sample can easily exceed 1/40 because the haplotypes are not equally widespread. (But how many haplotypes would you expect to find among 800 newborn Texans in the first place?) Your mitochondrial DNA reveals a very small amount of information about you, similar to your eye color.
From the Texas Tribune:

They never said they were turning over hundreds of dried blood samples to the federal government to help build a vast DNA database — a forensics tool designed to identify missing persons and crack cold cases.

The implication here is that the database is for tracking down these 800 babies if they ever go missing or become criminals. There is no indication that the missing persons and cold-case suspects would necessarily need to be involved with these people at all. Were they just taking scattershot samples from the general population in order to determine general haplotype types and frequencies? They only had 800 anonymous samples in this vast secret DNA database.
From newscientist.com:

The fear of a negative reaction is understandandable. Concerns over genetic privacy are growing - for example a recent study found that even anonymous collections of DNA can potentially be traced back to individuals. However, the DSHS appears only to have handed over mitochondrial DNA, which is next to impossible to trace to individuals.
Handling public fears about genetic privacy is certainly tricky, but concealing such an affair is not the answer - and only increases public mistrust.

The issue here is really the fact that they didn't say shit to the parents as this was all going on, because they feared the sort of bad publicity they're getting now.

Re:Someone enlighten me (5, Insightful)

Xamusk (702162) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Someone enlighten me (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325126)

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 law that requires disclosure of test results to anybody who gets tested? You should try getting a copy of your own blood test results sometime - if your doctor is nice it isn't a problem, but the testing company will act like you're a lunatic if you try to obtain your own results from them.

Re:Someone enlighten me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31325512)

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.

Usually it is. For these samples to be used in a research project, like building a mitochondrial DNA database, they should have had to receive informed consent from the parents and explain the anonymizing. Even if it's just "discarded" tissue from some legitimate clinical procedure, you're supposed to ask. Hell, I've had to sign informed consent forms to take freaking surveys.

It's possible they did, and just one more form or signature from the hospital was forgotten by all those parents. Maybe they'll turn up a big stack of what, 3.2 million consent forms? Somehow, if they'd followed the usual rules for human subjects research, I don't think there would be a big stink.

Re:Someone enlighten me (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325002)

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.

Re:Someone enlighten me (5, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325062)

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".

Re:Someone enlighten me (1)

sowth (748135) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325240)

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

Re:Someone enlighten me (1)

DeadboltX (751907) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325426)

"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:Someone enlighten me (1)

Michael Woodhams (112247) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325116)

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 nearly so useful in identifying individuals. It looks to me like they're trying to research how much less useful it is.

While they deserve to be in big trouble over this and heads should roll, I don't think it is anything which would have been objectionable had they obtained permission first. It isn't as if it is "This is little baby Anne Onemus Coward's DNA, 23 years from now when she secretly puts up posters criticizing the President are put up we'll be able to identify her from DNA residues on them and know whose door to break down at 2 am."

Re:Someone enlighten me (1)

zoloto (586738) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325146)

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.

Re:Someone enlighten me (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325300)

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 than this one person . Even is the identify can be determined it'll take a court order to do it, if we get to the point that the courts are that far into the government's thrall, we might as well bend over, put ours heads between our legs and kiss our asses goodbye.

Re:Someone enlighten me (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325564)

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.

This doesn't make sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31324938)

They don't believe in DNA in Texas. Shouldn't they have a database of commandments and plagues or something?

Re:This doesn't make sense (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325120)

I think you're confusing Texas with Kansas.

This doesn't make sense (1)

spartacus_prime (861925) | more than 4 years ago | (#31324952)

The database is useless until these children reach an age where they are actually capable of committing crimes (we'll say 15 or so). Are the taxpayers funding this?

Re:This doesn't make sense (1)

adamdoyle (1665063) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325038)

DNA also lets you know if someone is related to someone else. If a child's DNA (in the registry) matched a killer from a cold case by some really high percentage then investigators can investigate their parents.

used for day 1 pre existing conditions. (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325088)

used for day 1 pre existing conditions.

I knew it! (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#31324954)

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.

Re:I knew it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31325302)

Do you have a straw hat for that man you just made up?

Nice speed slashdot! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31324980)

Good thing that Slashdot made sure this made the front page 5 days after the article was first posted.

Re:Nice speed slashdot! (1)

AnotherUsername (966110) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325442)

And 5 years after the first reports of similar programs. Heck, there was even a similar program mentioned on an episode of That's Impossible, on the History Channel. It was on the Eternal Life episode. This is old news.

Need new tag (3, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325006)

whosyourdaddy

Re:Need new tag (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325562)

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

The smokescreen of Bio-Ethics. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31325018)

I recall back in the mid 90's reading all the hype surrounding genetics, and how the U.S. government were putting panels together to discuss the ethical implications of genetics in the on-coming years, as technology improved, and as advances in medicine booned.

Now fast forward 15 years. Where are the standards, and implemented foresight at the Federal level from said 'important panels', such that this scenario, and the absence of public awareness around it, come to fruition?

Is this just another example of the failure of Government and the indecision by elected officials to do what is required in the face of technological advances, versus waiting for capitalism to 'sort itself out'?

IMHO a few people need to go to prison. (4, Insightful)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325034)

Anyone else agree or disagree?

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

Re:IMHO a few people need to go to prison. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31325102)

They will need to give a DNA sample, on their way to the slammer...

Re:IMHO a few people need to go to prison. (1)

apokruphos (911590) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325134)

I can think of a large number of people that need to go to prison, though I don't know that any of the people involved in this event are on that list.

Re:IMHO a few people need to go to prison. (2, Insightful)

rec9140 (732463) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325144)

>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:IMHO a few people need to go to prison. (2, Funny)

lennier (44736) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325366)

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:IMHO a few people need to go to prison. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31325420)

I agree completely. I think you should go to prison. The punishment this yields should include large amounts of ass rape.

Re:IMHO a few people need to go to prison. (1)

magus_melchior (262681) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325480)

(IANAL; I've talked to lawyers and generally have an idea of how courts work (thanks NYCL), but this is still not legal advice)

Since the samples were anonymized, it will be difficult (though not impossible) to pin a 4th Amendment penalty to this-- the courts often care about "actual damages", where someone was demonstrably harmed by some actions, and anonymizing the samples was as much a CYA move as it was to "protect" the newborns sampled.

A possible line of attack is that such actions taken without any consultation with the parents means that neither the parents nor the newborns had any expectation that this sort of data collection was happening-- i.e., the hospitals and government acted in exceedingly bad faith. Any actual lawyers on /. can probably punch a few holes in that argument legally or procedurally.

IMO, if I were a plaintiff, I'd demand the heads of the responsible department and hospitals, but given the general willingness to flee responsibility at any cost, I'd settle for a very, very stiff fine (7+ figures) + attorney's fees.

Re:IMHO a few people need to go to prison. (2, Informative)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325486)

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

Re:IMHO a few people need to go to prison. (1)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325504)

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.

Re:IMHO a few people need to go to prison. (1)

Anachragnome (1008495) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325506)

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.

DNA testing of newborns is widespread (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31325112)

CNN reported last month that DNA samples from newborns are taken in several states [cnn.com] without parent consent or notification. In Florida, they are stored indefinitely. Many states give the samples to researchers.

Wasn't this and X-File? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31325118)

I'm pretty sure Agent Mulder found these in an underground vault about ten years ago...

Figures it would take the liberal media this long to cover it

wow, it sounds just like this dream I had... (1)

Unsub (1743120) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325136)

...where aliens cross-bred with humans, and they had green acid blood, and there were bees, and Indians, and snow, and...well, whatever, but I bet all the X-Files movies pop up on cable in the next few weeks.

Re:wow, it sounds just like this dream I had... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31325272)

...where aliens cross-bred with humans, and they had green acid blood, and there were bees, and Indians, and snow, and...well, whatever, but I bet all the X-Files movies pop up on cable in the next few weeks.

Okay Lady Gaga is NOT an alien. It sounds like you were dreaming of Vancouver, we have lots of green, bees, Indians/South Asians...but no snow

800,000 per year? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31325156)

My, Texas is getting a bit crowded.

Organ transplants (1)

happyfeet2000 (1208074) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325194)

Beside the obvious total control aspects, the elite needs to know who is a good fit for organ transplant. Nah, I'm just too paranoid today.

My daughter was born in Texas in 2007 (1)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325236)

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

Not. One. Bit.

Re:My daughter was born in Texas in 2007 (1)

Kitkoan (1719118) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325498)

You might want to. She runs the risk of DNA discrimination. Just because it's illegal, doesn't mean it won't happen. Sometimes its very hard to claim you've been discriminated against in job hunting since it's illegal most work sites will hire the bare minimum to avoid a case. Think of how many restaurants are filled with women waitresses verse men. Sure there are a few guys but it's just enough to get legally by and its very normal to have a ratio of 4 to 1 of women to men. It's not a fluke that happens, and DNA testing can take the same route. If it were to ever go to court, the business would just go "Look, this is a worker we have that has the same issue, we didn't discriminate" and then its case over. I've seen and heard men seeking these jobs and being told that the place wasn't hiring but 2 minutes later a woman gets the job right then and there because she was a pretty woman and the man really was being discriminated against. But since the place had a few men, it wasn't possible to file it in court.

Another possible issue is a false 'positive' in a criminal charge that could destroy her life in a DNA profiling case. This issue was mentioned here on slashdot only 2 months ago ( http://yro.slashdot.org/story/10/01/09/1321219/Scientists-and-Lawyers-Argue-For-Open-US-DNA-Database?art_pos=8 [slashdot.org] ). While this might seem like an unlikely thing to happen, the reality is it can and does happen.

Re:My daughter was born in Texas in 2007 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31325520)

Oh? And how do you know that they have not replaced her with a clone programmed to report on your cookie preferences?

Re:My daughter was born in Texas in 2007 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31325524)

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

Not. One. Bit.

I hope she feels the same way as you in 18 years.....

2001? (1)

whipnet (1025686) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325244)

My son was born in Houston in late 2001. I don't get warm fuzzy feelings from this article. *

Madness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31325248)

So is Icke right, are there lizards or not?

This story smells like lizards all over it.

\you Fail it.. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31325258)

Blah.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31325262)

I haven't killed anybody, I don't care. Isn't it better that the government knows who you are anyway?

they need to determine who's a fag (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31325296)

so we can have them cut off at birth and not have to hear shit about how they have "rights" as they fuck everyone over with their shit eating ways.

to remove some confusion: (5, Informative)

rritterson (588983) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:to remove some confusion: (1)

Boomerang Fish (205215) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325550)

What's scary about this is not the use of the blood samples or even the DNA. What's scary is the lack of informed consent.

Not being a lawyer, I often find it difficult to fully understand waivers and contracts without spending a lot of time going over them... and even then I sometimes have to ask questions.

Now, in this case it is for newborns, so one could argue the parents, in general, will have plenty of time before hand to do so... maybe. But lets take the more general case of why someone is in the hospital -- they need help - surgery, medication, therapy, etc. The point being that they don't have the time to read everything and fully understand it as they need help NOW.

It is quite possible that somewhere in the legalese I have signed to proceed with medical treatment of me or my daughter, I have at some point signed away my right to my biological material. And in most cases, I would likely be fine with this, as it has been pointed out here and elsewhere that this is often used to further medicine, research health trends, etc.

But you can't deny that the IMPLIED purpose of drawing my blood in the emergency room is to run tests ON ME because of the treatment I might need at THIS TIME. If the intent is to do so AND use/sell my blood for further research, then I am not fully informed (I have already conceded that I might have signed something to that effect, but (1) am I in my right mind when I'm in pain? and (2) it was not explained to me that way, just given to me on a piece of paper.

So, it is completely plausible that this could have been/is done now in a LEGAL way involving consent -- but it is not done in a CLEAR and INFORMED way.

That's what I find scary...

--
I drank what?

Screening for Powers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31325452)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugenics [wikipedia.org]

Maybe TPTB are trying to screen for those with special abilities (we know who we are) and try to weed them out or mark them for future use when they are adults to be recruited.

Praise YHWH, we know how wins in the end and it's not evil.

Why are YOU worried? (1)

HumanEmulator (1062440) | more than 4 years ago | (#31325476)

If your DNA has nothing to hide, you should have nothing to fear. [/sarcasm]
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