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Stealing People’s DNA: Why You Need Consent


There have been a few high profile cases where bodily samples have been illicitly snatched in order to do a stealthy paternity test. Stories of private detectives stealing tooth floss from dustbins and even of people plucking hair from dead bodies means we can’t always have control over our DNA – which is good news for the police investigating a crime scene, but bad news for our civil liberties.

Paternity Test Without Consent

But the days of taking a paternity DNA test without consent have ended. In the UK, the 2006 Human Tissue Act means you cannot take or test a person’s DNA without proper consent. The Human Tissue Act means it is illegal to:

  • Take, store or use human tissue without consent
  • Steal DNA without consent
  • Traffic organs

Thousands of Paternity DNA Tests Every Year

It’s estimated that thousands of paternity tests are taken every year in the UK. DNA for a test is easily obtained from blood, skin or more commonly, cheek cells. But such tests need to be carried out with consent and within a clear ethical framework. However, before the Human Tissue Act, it wasn’t illegal to steal DNA and in recent years there have been a number of cases where DNA has been stolen for a secret test. All reputable DNA testing companies such as International Biosciences will be fully aware of this law and ensure to inform clients and request required consent.

Covert Paternity Test – Damaging

Before the Act was introduced it was thought that up to one in ten paternity DNA tests were carried out on children without the consent of one of the parents. A covert test can have massive emotional fallout, especially for the child. A DNA test that is covert can sometimes have a malicious or deceitful intent.

Covert Paternity DNA Test

DNA tests have never been so readily available and affordable, which means more people might be tempted to obtain a covert or secret test. A simple mouth swab or even a single strand of hair can contain DNA. Squabbles over inheritance, child maintenance and adopted children trying to identify their parents have all boosted the popularity of the paternity test.

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