What is the crime if men seek confirmation that children are theirs?
by Barry Pearson
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Introduction

This paper discusses unofficial paternity tests where the commissioner supplies one of the samples. Such tests include home testing kits, but they could be other sorts. There is overlap with other types of DNA tests, but little time is spent on them here.

Legislators face two key challenges. They must try to match new laws to undesired behaviour without side effects. And they must ensure that wrongdoing can be detected and prosecuted. This paper does not propose what the undesired behaviour is. Other sources do that, based on emotion, ethics, outcomes and rights. Different people have different views of what behaviour is undesired. There is no consensus, so those are political decisions.

It is vital to understand that the issues about paternity testing are vastly different from the issues about other forms of DNA testing. The ethics, outcomes and rights have to be analysed separately. Indeed, most of the literature already treats them separately.

Genetic diagnosis examines the genes that make proteins. In effect genes are the recipes used to develop a body. Knowledge of a person's genes provides a unique insight into their body. Paternity tests use other parts of the DNA. They compare two or more samples to seek how much is common. They provide information about whether two people are related. They don't describe either person. (Actually, some say whether the child is a boy or a girl!)

There are four main stages in the paternity testing process at which actions could be made unlawful. Each of these stages has a section in this paper.

  1. Collecting the samples to be tested
  2. Commissioning the test using those samples
  3. Providing the testing service itself
  4. Using the information gained from the test

In order to deter wrongdoers, their crimes have to be detected then prosecuted. There are various ways that the police detect actions against the law. Here are the basic methods that were considered while writing the following sections.

  A. A victim reports the crime
  B. A witness reports the crime
  C. A consequence of the crime is detected
  D. Activities are constantly monitored to spot crimes
  E. The police sweep an area to find criminals or crimes
  F. An incident is shown by further evidence to be a crime

Within any one of the four main stages, there are a number of options. They tend to have different ways of detecting them.

Detection and prosecution will often only be possible if other nations cooperate on the chosen trigger points. For example, if each of the four stages can be done in nations where they are legal, there may be no crime even if no nation allows all four stages. The views of other nations are identified here where this is known.

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Page last updated: 13 December, 2003 © Copyright Barry Pearson 2003