GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A lawsuit on behalf of Michigan parents claims that blood was stolen from their babies at birth.
Since 1984, the state of Michigan has been collecting and storing blood in a private nonprofit blood bank called the BioTrust and using it for medical research. The blood of about 5 million people is being held in two banks, one in Lansing and the other in Detroit. Unless your parents opted out when you were born, you are among them.
>>Online: MichBio Mission and Vision
In September, Philip Ellison and his wife welcomed their son Patton. He was born early and was placed in the neonatal unit.
"The second day we were there, the nurse shows up and hands me a form and says, 'Hey, we need you to sign this to donate your son's blood for research,'" Ellison told 24 Hour News 8 via FaceTime. "As a parent who has a son in neonatal, it's my first child, I'm not worried about donating blood at this point. I said, 'Let's not worry about his, we'll deal with this later.' She said, 'Oh, no. This isn't blood that we're using. This is the blood we send to the state.' And I said, 'What blood did you send to the state?' And that's when I discovered this."
Ellison is also a lawyer and his wife a professor. They took baby classes and read books, so they thought they knew what to expect. But they never learned about the Michigan Neonatal BioBank.
"I was just unhappy with the fact that I didn't have the opportunity to make that decision," Ellison said.
When a child is born in Michigan, a blood sample is taken to help find rare disorders. It's been happening since the late 1960s. Since 1984, the state has been taking extra blood and storing it in a private nonprofit blood bank to test for future diseases. It's also sold for medical research.
Ellison said he learned that the bank also "processed" 22 law enforcement requests. It's not known what those requests were for or if any blood was actually given to law enforcement.
BioTrust Advisory Board Chair Stephen Rapundalo said he is unaware of law enforcement having access to the blood. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services website says it doesn't give police access.
"There is a robust informed consent process that's put in place by the state of Michigan for the last at least eight years. And so the parents should have been provided that paperwork," Rapundalo told 24 Hour News 8 over the phone Thursday.
Rapundalo could not confirm if all of the blood samples in the BioTrust banks have signed consent. The BioTrust says it is possible that parents signed consent forms without knowing.
The BioTrust does have a form you can fill out to get your child's blood destroyed. You can call 1.866.673.9939 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details on that process.
>>Online: BioTrust FAQ (PDF)