The Life Sciences & Society Program at the School of Public Health thanks The Michigan Daily and reporter Paige Pearcy for the piece (‘U’ educates community on state neonatal blood bank, 10/12/2011) noting that millions of blood samples from Michigan natives can be used for health research without explicit consent.

Every Michigander born between July 1, 1984 and April 30, 2010 has bloodspots in the Michigan Neonatal Biobank. Few realize it. LSS aims to let people know. We’d like to clarify some key details on this topic around the issue of informed consent.

The Michigan Department of Community of Health has not banked any blood samples from babies born after May 2010 without signed, parental permission.

But MDCH is allowed to keep samples collected from more than 4 million Michiganders born before last May, even though there was never a process in place for collecting permission. “Donors” age 18 or older or the parents of minors can ask MDCH to destroy or remove their samples from the Biobank. These Michiganders have the option to opt out, but they have never had the opportunity to opt in.

For practical reasons, MDCH has not tried to collect consent for the bloodspots preserved before last May that represent a potential treasure for researchers.

LSS has created a simple online consent form that will not impact Michiganders’ “participation” in the Biobank from the state’s perspective, but will provide a way for stakeholders to tell us whether they’d like to opt in, opt out, state no opinion or be contacted on a case-by-case basis to say whether they’d allow University researchers, like me, to use their bloodspots.

There are three ways the University community can participate: Fill out our consent form, go to www.mybloodspot.org for more information, sign up via dbthiel@umich.edu to pilot-test our website (one hour pays $25 through November) and tell friends.

Sharon Kardia
Chair of Epidemiology at the University and Director of the Life Sciences & Society

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