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March 2014

Newborn Screening ControversyPast, Present, and Future

Author Affiliations
  • 1Berman Institute of Bioethics, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
JAMA Pediatr. 2014;168(3):199-200. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.4980

Newborn screening has been hailed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as one of the most successful public health programs of the 21st century.1 The year 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of newborn screening, and the first half century has been heralded by many triumphs. An estimated 4 million infants are screened each year under newborn screening programs that are mandatory in most states, with approximately 12 500 being identified yearly with certain heritable disorders, many of which have devastating effects if not identified and treated prior to the onset of symptoms.2 As new technology has been developed, newborn screening programs have evolved. Today, 31 conditions are recommended by the Discretionary Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children for inclusion on state newborn screening panels. Despite these successes, newborn screening programs have been fraught with controversy since their inception.

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