The ethical debate on present day paternity testing practices
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Acta clinica Belgica. - Leuven, 1946 - 1997
, p. 74-78
University of Antwerp
The last years, the number of paternity tests on buccal swabs sold over the internet as "test kits", has steeply increased. The commercial providers of these services facilitate controversial practices, including clandestine sampling at home, anonymous sending off for analysis, motherless testing and using "stolen" personal objects containing biological material (combs, cigarette butts). This has led to concern on the consequences on the family unit - especially the child - which may suffer emotionally, physically and financially. In reaction, legal initiatives are appearing throughout Europe. The UK Human Genetics Commission has advised that the non-consensual obtaining and analysis of personal genetic information should be a new criminal offence. The German Federal Court of justice has ruled that paternity tests performed without the mother's knowledge are inadmissible as evidence in lawsuits. French taw strictly forbids the application of DNA testing without the involvement of the court system. In Belgium, a proposal for law has been laid down where the offering to the public of paternity tests through the internet is forbidden. Privately requested paternity tests would remain possible, but only in human genetics centres, who take the samples, perform the test and communicate the result during a medical visit. Only accepting blood samples, as proposed, would however reverse technological evolution and is not in the best interest of the child, which this legal proposal above all tries to protect.