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Column: Babies' Blood Row Raises Big Brother Fears

In the Auckland High Court last week it was revealed that since 1969 heel-prick blood samples have been taken at birth from all babies and stored without informed consent. Lawyers say there needs to be a lot of public debate about whether people want a DNA blood bank kept on every New Zealander. John Howard speculates on a hypothetical example of just what identification could mean for a Kiwi infant.

Little Citizen 577-00-619X came into the world today.

Properly identified she joined billions of other precious humano-numeric global resources.

From this day, government data managers and selfless researchers will watch over every aspect of her welfare - vaccinations, aptitudes, nutrition, scholastic achievements, emotional adjustment, vocational profiling, and, of course, her all-important family risk factors.

Her life's progress will be monitored (and altered as necessary) by her unique identifier. An identifier she will be carefully taught to cherish.

As she reaches maturity, young Ms 619X's fertility, economic status, purchases, residence, employment, habits and health will be carefully recorded by the numbers. Her personal identifier will be the access code that will allow her attend to school, marry, get a professional practice licence, drive, travel overseas, work, buy a home, bank or invest.

And when she dies, her death certificate will sum up her life as Citizen 577-00-619X.

With careful resource management, the day of her termination will be many years in the future.

But today, as her parents submitted her to the care of hospital staff, they didn't know that a blood sample was to be taken and stored without their permission. They didn't know the Privacy Act allows for blood samples from that database to be released for court proceedings.

But they had always been uneasy about her future; a well-observed future. Would people, they wondered, be sacrificing independence and privacy by allowing the identifiying of babies' at birth?

Of course, they realised there are numbered and identified people everywhere. But even the numbered and identified people figure that is something a person should make an informed choice about.

An hour-old baby can hardly say, "Yes I opt for convenience sake to be identified" or "No, I'd rather face the challenge of an unidentified life."

Give the baby a break! Let him or her make their own choices when they're old enough to know the consequences.

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