newborn baby


Federal Lawsuit Alleges State Of Michigan Is Stealing Babies' Blood

"We just don't know what they're using it for"

April 12, 2018 - 3:28 pm

SAGINAW (WWJ) - A Saginaw father and lawyer has filed a federal lawsuit claiming the state of Michigan is stealing the blood of newborn babies -- and in some cases selling it. 

Attorney Philip Ellison said he first became aware of the state's program when his son was born last year. A blood sample is drawn from a pin prick on the heels babies at birth and then tested for a wide variety of diseases.

While there is a consent form, Ellison told WWJ Newsradio 950's Sandra McNeill: "The state takes the blood first, and then the form they're having you sign is actually to donate the blood after they're done using it. So the only thing you're giving consent for is to use it for research."

If you say no on the form, Ellison alleges: "They're still keeping your blood indefinitely."

[View a copy of the lawsuit]

While every U.S. state has a newborn blood screening program, Ellison said that most states destroy the samples after testing is complete. "Or if they do keep them they keep them for a very short period of time and then destroy them," he said. "Michigan is one of the very few states which just arbitrarily keeps the blood samples taken from newborns."

The state confirms that is has about 5 million of these baby blood samples on file.

"That means that over half of every resident in Michigan's DNA -- if you're 30 and under and you're born here -- your DNA and your blood sample are being held by the state," Ellison said. "And the state has basically free rein over what they're going to use it for...and the problem is we just don't know what they're using it for."

Ellison said that once the state is done testing the babies' blood, it's then transferred to a private party entity known as the Michigan Neonatal Biobank, which may then sell it to researchers for $10 a sample. 

While the lawsuit alleges that this program violates residents' constitutional rights, Ellison said another concern is that parents don't know that any of this is going on.

"Parents have absolutely no say about whether the blood is drawn. And then, once the blood is drawn, I think they don't have a complete understanding about what's happening to the blood once it goes to the state," Ellison said.

The state has not yet responded to the lawsuit.

Michigan residents seeking more information about this issue can visit