Refusal of a parent to subject her baby to newborn screening test

Refusal of a parent to subject her baby to newborn screening test
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Dear PAO,

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I am pregnant, and I’m due to give birth in the coming days. My doctor spoke to me and explained that my baby would undergo newborn screening, which involves a procedure where blood has to be drawn from my child. I do not want to subject my child to screening because my religion forbids any procedure that will require the extraction of blood, but my doctor said that it is required under the law. Can I refuse it?

Leah

Dear Leah,

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Please be informed that it is the policy of the state to guarantee the well-being of children to enable them to fully enjoy the right to survival and healthy development. It is for this reason that the state enacted laws and implemented measures to ensure the protection and promotion of children’s right to health. In particular, Republic Act (RA) 9288, otherwise known as the “Newborn Screening Act of 2004,” was enacted to see to it that every newborn has access to newborn screening for certain heritable conditions that can result in mental retardation, serious health complications, or death if left undetected and untreated, among others. Sections 6 and 7 of the law provide:

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“SEC. 6. Performance of Newborn Screening. – Newborn screening shall be performed after twenty-four (24) hours of life but not later than three (3) days from complete delivery of the newborn. A newborn that must be placed in intensive care in order to ensure survival may be exempted from the 3-day requirement but must be tested by seven (7) days of age. It shall be the joint responsibility of the parent(s) and the practitioner or other person delivering the newborn to ensure that newborn screening is performed. An appropriate informational brochure for parents to assist in fulfilling this responsibility shall be made available by the Department of Health and shall be distributed to all health institutions and made available to any health practitioner requesting it for appropriate distribution.

“SEC. 7. Refusal to be Tested. – A parent or legal guardian may refuse testing on the grounds of religious beliefs but shall acknowledge in writing their understanding that refusal for testing places their newborn at risk for undiagnosed heritable conditions. A copy of this refusal documentation shall be made part of the newborn’s medical record, and refusal shall be indicated in the national newborn screening database.”

Pursuant to the aforementioned provisions of the law, the newborn baby must undergo newborn screening, and both the parents and the medical practitioner who monitored the birth have the duty to ensure that the newborn baby is subjected to the diagnostic procedures under the newborn screening protocol. However, any parent or legal guardian who, due to their religious beliefs, refuses to subject the newborn to the screening test can so refuse, subject to the documentary requirement provided under the law.

In your case, considering that you refuse to subject your newborn to the mandated screening due to your religious belief, you are required to clearly state in a document that you fully understand that refusing to submit your newborn to the said screening may put him/her at risk for undiagnosed heritable conditions. This document shall form part of your newborn’s medical record, and such refusal shall be indicated in the national newborn screening database.

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. This advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated on.


Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to [email protected]

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