By Claude Peters
A bill is languishing in the Codes Committee of the State Assembly (A. 909) that would give a person adopted in New York the right to get certain information, including a family health history, from his or her birth parents.
State law now forbids adoptees from having that access. This is a grave injustice to the thousands of people adopted in New York State.
One of our sons was adopted in Buffalo at the age of six weeks. He is now 46, and he has been trying for several years to get information about his birth parents and their family.
The Buffalo agency through which we had adopted him is no longer in existence. The only information about his parents that we were given by this agency was the relatively insignificant facts that they were college students, along with their height, hair and eye color and nationality.
He has for the last several years been trying to get more information, but at every turn has hit the wall of New York State law concerning adoptees’ confidentiality. We have been helping him in this search, but have hit the same wall.
This is not just a matter of curiosity for him. He has no family medical history that could help him prevent or treat illnesses that run in families.
Several years ago he was in the hospital and the doctors wanted his family history so they could better treat him and give him guidance in his after-care program. He could give them nothing. His health may be in danger because of this.
I don’t feel that the privacy rights of the birth parents should supersede my son’s rights to perhaps vital medical information.
I did not meet my biological father or know anything of his family until I was into my 40s. When I did get that medical information, I found out that there was a history of heart disease in the males of his family. That knowledge caused me to change my lifestyle and diet. Had I not found that family medical history, I might not be here to write this essay.
My son is only one of thousands of people in New York suffering from a law that, at the very least, may put their future health at risk.
There appears to be widespread support in the Senate and Assembly for a bill correcting the law, but it is locked in committee. If you agree that this injustice should be corrected, please write your state legislator for his or her support, along with the chairman of the Codes Committee, Joseph Lentol, who may be reached at the Legislative Office Building, Room 632, Albany, N.Y., 12248.