"The truth is out there" - Commentary on "Move to outlaw secret DNA testing by fathers"
by Barry Pearson
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Appendix C: Other methods of identifying non-paternity

Paternity tests are not the only “biological” method for a man to discover that he is the not the father of a child. Consider this:

From the Observer 2000-09-03: “One study followed couples waiting for NHS fertility treatment, where the men were ‘azoospermic’, meaning they produced no sperm and were totally infertile. The researchers found that 25 per cent of the women became pregnant before fertility treatment started”.

Suppose this infertility is discovered after the child is born. It gives the man precisely the same knowledge that a paternity test would instead of a fertility test: the knowledge that he is not the father. And it can do so in a way that doesn’t inform anyone else that he knows, and without requiring samples from anyone. In fact, Kirk Kerkorian (see earlier material in the Sunday Telegraph article) has apparently declared to the court that he is sterile. I don’t know whether he knew this fact at the time he first agreed to pay child support for Kira. But such knowledge has precisely the same power to disrupt family relationships.

Already, a man who has had a vasectomy can be pretty sure that he is not the father of a child of his partner. He can have this knowledge, even though she may not be aware that he knows that he cannot be the father. In several years time there will be a new generation of high quality male contraceptives. Some of these will be chemical or hormonal methods, similar in principle to injections available to women at the moment. Some of these may need a patch, and this will give a clue that he is infertile. But other methods will display no such signs.

One such method recently passed its clinical trials in India, and has started to be deployed in hospitals there. The doctor responsible for the use of no-scalpel vasectomies in Canada intends to introduce this method there. The method called RISUG: “Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance”. It appears to be an ideal contraceptive: unobtrusive, long lasting, reversible, safe, and reliable. By perhaps 2010 men will not only be able to control their own fertility much more conveniently than at present, but will also be able to do so unobtrusively. Such men will know about their non-paternity without needing a paternity test. Obviously, use of such male contraceptives will inform the man concerned long before the child is born. But unless the woman has an abortion, there will still be a child, and probably a disruption to the family. Siblings will be affected.

Another biological means of discovering non-paternity is the diagnosis of genetic disorders:

From The Dallas Morning News, 1999-10-31: ““You are not a cystic fibrosis carrier, the doctor says”. Sounds like good news, but it has ripped his patient’s life apart. Both parents must have a defective CF gene for their offspring to develop the deadly disease - so how could Morgan Wise’s youngest child be sick? “I'm sorry to say there’s a good chance he’s not your boy,” he recalled the physician telling him. In disbelief, he had DNA work done on all his kids. The staggering conclusion: His three sons were not his three sons, at least not biologically speaking.”

What the above show is that paternity surprises don't just arise from paternity tests.

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Page last updated: 2 July, 2003 © Copyright Barry Pearson 2002