||Ethical debates must start with the realisation that
the topic of paternity tests is primarily about knowledge,
not about DNA. DNA is simply the tactical means
being used to gain knowledge.
||Paternity tests for personal knowledge do not themselves
hurt anyone. They simply inform a person of a fact about themselves
that other people may already know. His or her subsequent informed
behaviour may affect others, but ethically that is not a reason to
deny that person that information.
||It is necessary to distinguish between tests that simply
inform the commissioner of the test about something and have no other
practical value, and tests that inform a second or third party. The
ethical implications of personal knowledge tests are very different
||Men, women, and children should have privacy in their
quest for personal knowledge of biological relationships, as long
as they obey the standard laws of assault, theft, privacy, harassment,
data protection, and similar.
|| It is necessary to distinguish between tests that
provide knowledge of one's genes, hence bodily attributes, and tests
that simply use junk DNA to identify biological relationships without
attempting to predict bodily attributes. The ethical and privacy issues
are totally different.
||The UK's "strict biological relationship"
policy for child support avoids some of the bad behaviour that occurs
elsewhere in the world, and should be supported for that reason.
||The explosive growth in paternity testing services
demonstrates just how important very many men feel their biological
relationship with their children is. This dimension to "fathering"
has always been strong and won't go away.
||Increasingly, it is often being seen to be in the interests
of children to know about their biological parents. This has even
been identified in the case of a seven-year-old child. The trend is
towards laws and judgements that recognise this important need of
||It appears to be very difficult to attempt to frame
credible laws which would make it an offence to obtain DNA samples
from someone close, or to use a paternity service across the world.
It would be better to concentrate on having good quality private personal
knowledge paternity services in the UK.
|| Since paternity surprises are seen to be a problem,
the answer is to solve the problem. We should move towards
a society without paternity surprises.