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Home > Focus > Home DNA Testing for all the Family

Home DNA Testing for all the Family

di Jonathan Hankins [1], 3 Dicembre 2009

On 17th November 2009 home DNA testing kits went on over the counter sale for the first time in high street chemists in the UK. These kits allow the DNA testing of a child's paternity and involve the taking of saliva from both the child and the 'alleged father's' mouth (their terminology) and its analysis. The kits are produced by a company called International Biosciences [2] and cost £30, with the lab analysis costing a further £119, samples can be taken at home using something that looks like a cotton bud and once received by the lab the results arrive within 5 days. The kit is also available through the company website but at no cost.

In a BBC radio interview [3] Ian Meekins the CEO of International Biosciences made some rather interesting comments that are worthy of reporting as they offer a little food for thought. He claimed that the test was 100% accurate (absolutely 100% were his exact words) and that it was not his position to stand as moral guardian when discussing either the ethical implications of marketing this product or the rights of the child involved. He in fact stated that in the case of a child under 16 years of age their consent is not legally required (in fact only the consent of one of their parents or legal guardians is required).

He answered a question about the possible consequences of the use of his product by saying that his company goes to great lengths to make customers think about the possible consequences of administering the test and provide contacts 'of various bodies that exist should the information be unfavorable and them not be able to handle it very well'. This service is provided over the telephone or through their website but the client has to actively go and look for it.

He goes on to state that the test has been available via Internet for several years and that there is enormous demand for the service offered. When asked about the results he stated that in about 50% of the tests carried out the result is negative and the 'alleged father' is found not to be the biological father, but that this does not always 'cause upset' and sometimes leads to relief and 'immense satisfaction'.

The national press however have been fairly unanimous in their critical reporting of the story. The Daily mail carries a report entitled "First over-the-counter paternity test goes on sale amid claims it will encourage DNA theft" [4]by David Derbyshire and Claire Ellicott in which they state that a spokesman for the Human Genetics Commission, the Government's advisory body on genetics said: 'We have serious concerns about over-the-counter genetic tests of this kind'. They also quote Dr Helen Wallace of Genewatch UK [5] as saying 'It is going to be devastating for a child to suddenly find out their father is not who they think he is - or to be treated differently by a parent just because of a test. People need to sit back and ask themselves whether taking a paternity test is in the best interest of the child.'

The BBC follow a similar line [6] quoting Josephine Quintavalle, director of Ethics of Reproduction "We don't think DNA samples should be taken from a vulnerable child when it is not for the child's benefit. The result of a test is likely to be harmful - the child will either be rejected or become part of the whole dispute between the parents. what are you going to tell the child when you are taking the sample - 'I don't know if you are my child or not? If it is proved the child is not the father's what will they say then? I have loved you for seven years but now I don't want you? I just can't see any benefit for the child."

(photo: Boston Bus Ad [7] by occam from Flickr)

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Link citati nell'articolo:

  1. 1] /schedabiografica/Jonathan Hankins
  2. 2] http://www.ibdna.com/regions/UK/EN/
  3. 3] http://www.ibdna.com/regions/UK/EN/?page=international-biosciences-bbc-radio-kent-interview
  4. 4] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1228681/Paternity-tests-goes-sale-counter-amid-claims-encourage-DNA-theft.html#ixzz0YcjzQRPe
  5. 5] http://www.genewatch.org/
  6. 6] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/8363535.stm
  7. 7] http://www.flickr.com/photos/ockam/3720952909/
CC Creative Commons - some rights reserved.
photo by occam from Flickr
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Jonathan Hankins

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