Wednesday 20 September 2017

Don't destroy a vital resource

Madam – I would heartily agree with Dr Maurice Gueret's dismay at the HSE's decision to destroy a significant national resource ('There will be no blood', Life magazine, Sunday Independent, March 3, 2013). As a former member of both the Irish Council of Bioethics and the Health Research Board Expert Group on Biobanking, I am appalled by this decision.

While the controversy over the detection of DNA from horses in burgers has sent the country into the equine equivalent of mad cow disease and expressions of moral outrage, despite the fact that there has been no indication of any health risk, there has been precious little of the same media coverage or letter-writing frenzy over the decision of the HSE to destroy millions of blood spot cards, thus depriving both Irish scientists and Irish patients of a resource that has the potential to help fight genetic diseases.

Ireland was the first country in the world to set up a national blood spot screening programme and its benefit has been seen in many areas of public health, particularly in the management of diseases such as phenylketonuria, where detection of the gene mutation allows precise management. Researchers and patients worldwide have benefited from using blood spot cards to help understand disease.

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