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“Do-it-yourself” Paternity Test

doityourselfpaternitytest.jpgA new product at your local pharmacy is selling like hotcakes. It`s the Home DNA Paternity Test from Identigene, a ?do-it-yourself? paternity test kit available over-the-counter.

Here`s how it works: Cell samples are collected from the inside of the cheeks using swabs provided in the kit. Cell samples from the father and from the child are collected separately. The samples are then mailed to an accredited lab where genetic tests are performed. Results are available by phone, online or by mail.

So far, so good.

Now comes the tricky parts, mainly dealing with the following questions:

  • How accurate is the test?
  • How will it stand up in a court of law?
  • Who is buying such kits?
  • What are the consequences of such a test?

The report comes back with a probability figure ? the likelihood of paternity. Identigene claims it ?routinely provides results probabilities greater than 99.99%?, thus providing conclusive proof of genetic relationship. However, self-collected samples are not foolproof. There is always the risk of contamination and fraud.

Legal issues
Some experts say there is no guarantee that such a test result will stand up in court. It may be admissible as evidence but the jury needs to be fully convinced of its accuracy for it to serve its purpose. There are, however, other such tests developed mainly for forensic purposes.

Custody, inheritance, child support, divorce, or simple curiosity. These are just a few issues that push people to buy and use the test kit.

Clearly, the test is meant for private purposes only. But the results can have far-reaching consequences. Broken relationships, broken homes, broken hearts ? these might be just a few negative consequences that such a test may bring. Though to be fair, something positive may also come out of it ? reunions, putting things right, getting justice, or just plain peace of mind.

The test is here. It is simply a man-made tool that we can use to answer questions. In the end, it`s our own decision and judgment that count.


MSNBC 27 March 2008


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