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Newborn screenings upheld by appeals court

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the state in a case that pits parents who demand privacy for their babies' DNA against officials who argue state code allows disease screening for all newborns .

Droplets of blood are taken from the heels of newborns and kept on cards, which provide a way to test for devastating illnesses such as pheylketonuria, which, according to MayoClinic.com, can cause behavioral problems, small head size and other developmental problems.

According to Mayo, early detection of phenylketonuria "can help prevent serious health problems."

Mayo spokesman Bryan Anderson issued a statement this morning, saying, "Mayo Clinic strongly supports Minnesota's newborn screening program, which detects diseases that are in many cases treatable, allowing newborns to live normal, healthy lives. We are pleased the Court of Appeals determined Minnesota's newborn screening program is being conducted within the law and to the advantage of newborns and their families."

But Twila Brase, president of the Minnesota-based Citizens' Council on Health Care , said she expects the plaintiffs (parents of 25 children born between 1998 and December 2008, according to the court decision) to appeal to the United States Supreme Court.


"I have always presumed that this is where this case would go," she said this morning.

Brase said the court's decision means the Minnesota health commissioner "can do whatever she wants … using our DNA or information without our consent." Parents can "opt out" of the newborn screening in Minnesota if they want, Brase said, but most don't know that until after the screening has already been done.

The court ruled that health providers are authorized to do newborn screening by state code and that no unlawful conduct occurred.

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