Washington International Law Journal


In recent years, the United States has drastically increased the number of disorders screened through its newborn screening programs. This increase is made possible by the adoption of new a technology, the tandem mass spectrometer (“MS/MS”), which allows screening of up to thirty disorders from a single drop of a newborn’s blood. However, such rapid expansion of screening raises concerns regarding the purpose of the screening, as well as the current practices in place for obtaining informed consent. Similar expansion in Australia provides a model of one approach to address these difficult questions. As the first country to begin using MS/MS for newborn screening, the Australian experience sheds light on the implications surrounding such expansion, as well as one method for resolving these issues. However, close analysis reveals that the Australian method for expanding screening would cause dissonance within the U.S. legal system, specifically with regard to informed consent. Therefore, the American states need to re-evaluate the implications of this screening in order to assess whether or not such vast expansion is a good idea. Policy-makers must use caution prior to incorporating any new disorders into newborn screening in order to protect the rights of one of the most vulnerable citizens in our society–the newborn baby.

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