Passing the House of Representatives on a voice vote, S. 1858 has been sent to President Bush for signature. The Newborn Genetic Screening bill was passed by the Senate last December. The bill violates the U.S. Constitution and the Nuremberg Code, writes Twila Brase, president of the Citizen’s Council on Health Care (CCHC). “The DNA taken at birth from every citizen is essentially owned by the government, and every citizen becomes a potential subject of government-sponsored genetic research,” she states. “It does not require consent and there are no requirements to inform parents about the warehousing of their child’s DNA for the purpose of genetic research. Already, in Minnesota, the state health department reports that 42,210 children of the 780,000 whose DNA is housed in the Minnesota ‘DNA warehouse’ have been subjected to genetic research without their parents’ knowledge or consent.”
The federal government lacks the Constitutional authority as well as the competence to develop a newborn screening program, states Rep. Ron Paul, M.D. (R-TX). He states that all hospitals will probably scrap their own newborn testing program and adopt the federal model, whatever its flaws, to avoid the loss of federal funding.
“Drafters of the legislation made no effort to ensure that these newborn screening programs do not violate the privacy rights of parents and children,” Dr. Paul noted.
Ms. Brase has called on President Bush to veto the bill.Statement by Rep. Ron Paul on S. 1858
Madame Speaker, as an OB-GYN I take a back seat to no one when it comes to caring about the health of newborn children. However, as a Representative who has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, I cannot support legislation, no matter how much I sympathize with the legislation’s stated goals, that exceed the Constitutional limitations on federal power or in any way threatens the liberty of the American people. Since S. 1858 violates the Constitution, and may have untended consequences that will weaken the American health care system and further erode medical privacy, I must oppose it.
S. 1858 gives the federal bureaucracy the authority to develop a model newborn screening program. Madame Speaker the federal government lacks both the constitutional authority and the competence to develop a newborn screening program adequate for a nation as large and diverse as the Untied States. Some will say that the program is merely a guide for local hospitals. However, does anyone seriously believe that, whatever the flaws contained in the model eventually adopted by the federal government, almost every hospital in the country will scrap their own newborn screening programs in favor of the federal model? After all, no hospital will want to risk losing federal funding because they did not adopt the “federally-approved” plan for newborn screening. This, thus bill takes another step toward the nationalization of health care.
As the federal government assumes more control over health care, medical privacy has increasingly come under assault. Those of us in the medical profession should be particularly concerned about policies allowing government officials and state-favored interests to access our medical records without our consent. After all, patient confidentiality is the basis of the trust that must underline a positive physician-patient relationship. Yet my review of S. 1858 indicates the drafters of the legislation made no effort to ensure these newborn screening programs do not violate the privacy rights of parents and children.
In fact, by directing federal bureaucrats to create a contingency plan for newborn screening in the event of a “public health” disaster, this bill may lead to further erosions of medical privacy. As recent history so eloquently illustrates, politicians are more than willing to take, and people are more than willing to cede, liberty during times of “emergency.” Thus, most people will gladly sacrifice their families’ medical privacy if they are told it is necessary to protect them from a government-declared health emergency, while the federal government will be very unlikely to relinquish its’ new powers when the emergency passes.
I am also skeptical, to say the least, that a top-down federal plan to screen any part of the population will effectively help meet the challenges facing the health care system in the event of a real public emergency. State and local governments working together with health care providers, can better come up with effective ways to deal with public health emergencies than can any federal bureaucracy. It is for these reasons Madame Speaker that I oppose S. 1858.