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An Ethical Quandary with Paternity Tests

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DNA tests have transformed how we think about ourselves – they can provide us information about our relatives, about our genes, about whether we are more likely to inherit cancer and whether a baby will be a boy or girl. Paternity tests mean we can find out if our dad is really our dad, or if our children were the result of an affair with the milkman. Like all DNA tests however, these too can have massive repercussions. And finding out you are more likely to get cancer or discovering a long-lost sibling can have negative as well as positive effects. On the one hand, information is power, and you can use this knowledge to help. But the results are not always what we want them to be. And the availability of DNA tests such as paternity DNA tests raises questions about how ethical it is to have such information at our fingertips.

Home Paternity Tests

There are concerns that finding out such major, often life-changing facts as a result of DNA tests, in the comfort of your own home is in fact dangerous. Many major emotional issues that arise require counselling and proper advice. And if you’re looking into genetic health, it’s advisable to seek advice from a health professional.

Discreet Paternity Tests

In America and the UK there are DNA companies where you can purchase paternity tests, do a cheek swab from the baby and alleged father and send it off for results. This can be an incredibly useful tool in the right context. But in America there are concerns that paternity DNA tests can be done by mothers, without the knowledge of the suspected father. It’s possible to collate DNA samples discretely, although it’s worth noting that discrete or covert/ secret tests are not valid in a court scenario.

Convenient and Discrete

Although you can do DNA tests conveniently, cheaply and in private, some ethicists have concerns that people who take the test may react badly if the results are not the ones they desired. For example, if a man found out the child he brought up as his own wasn’t his own, it could end the relationship and potentially damage the emotional well-being of the child.

Some DNA tests, such as paternity DNA tests, can reveal potentially devastating information for some, whilst offering peace of mind and joy to others. It’s always important to be fully aware of both outcomes if you do take any kind of DNA test, such as paternity tests.

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