Journal of Community Genetics

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 117–128 | Cite as

Public concerns regarding the storage and secondary uses of residual newborn bloodspots: an analysis of print media, legal cases, and public engagement activities

  • Shannon Cunningham
  • Kieran C. O’DohertyEmail author
  • Karine Sénécal
  • David Secko
  • Denise Avard
Original Article


Recently, public concerns have been expressed regarding the non-consented storage and secondary research uses of residual newborn bloodspot (RBS) samples. The purpose of this paper is to examine public responses to the storage and secondary uses of RBS that can be identified through analysis of media, legal cases, and documented public engagement activities. Coverage in the examined print media confirmed the importance of RBS to journalists and those people who expressed their concerns to these journalists. Several lawsuits, brought by parents concerned about the storage of newborn bloodspots, placed the practice of storing NBS into the spotlight. This resulted in controversial debates and the mandatory destruction of millions of samples. Analysis of public engagement activities across several jurisdictions indicated that across (inter)national boundaries there are common elements to what is perceived as inappropriate governance of RBS. Public concerns were grouped into five main themes: trust, transparency, confidentiality, ownership, and stigmatization/discrimination. The results of our analysis help to make a compelling case for placing citizens at the center of the debate and developing policy about the storage and secondary uses of newborn bloodspots.


Residual newborn bloodspots Storage Secondary uses Public concerns Public engagement activities Print media 


Compliance with ethics guidelines

The manuscript complies with the Canadian research ethics guidelines as set out by the 2nd edition of Tri-Council Policy Statement. No human subjects were involved. Only publicly available documents were analyzed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shannon Cunningham
    • 1
  • Kieran C. O’Doherty
    • 2
    Email author
  • Karine Sénécal
    • 3
  • David Secko
    • 3
  • Denise Avard
    • 3
  1. 1.University of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada
  3. 3.McGill UniversityMontréalCanada

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