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A report by the Privacy Commissioner following his inquiry into the collection, retention, use and release of newborn metabolic screening test samples, pursuant to section 13(1)(m) of the Privacy Act 1993.

View the full 14-page report.

Introduction

In May 1999 an application was made to the High Court for a direction that Auckland Healthcare Services Ltd produce a blood sample of a child which was the subject of proceedings before the Court. At issue was a Guthrie blood test sample taken from the child and held by the National Testing Centre, a division of Auckland Healthcare Services Ltd. The Court ordered Auckland Healthcare Services Ltd to produce the
blood sample card for inspection by the court and/or for the purpose of making any experiment thereon. The blood sample was tested and the father of the child subsequently made an application to the High Court in August 1999 for a declaration of paternity.

I considered there were information privacy issues as well as other issues of public policy involved in making blood samples available for genetic identification. The judgments of Justices Salmon and Morris did not traverse in detail the public policy issues. I accordingly commenced an inquiry into the collection, retention, use and
disclosure of the samples to see if there appeared to be any changes which ought to be made in the law, information supplied to parents, retention of the samples and to consider the implications of the use and disclosure in civil and criminal cases of the samples or the information obtained from them.

Following is a report of that inquiry. It is my recommendation that legislation be introduced to control the storage and use of Guthrie Blood Test Sample Cards.

I was assisted in my inquiry and the writing of this report by Kristin Langdon BA LL.B NZRN and Robert Stevens, Barrister.

View the Guthrie Heel Prick report media release.