Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Paternity tests - mothers' and childrens' rights

Another story on BBC Breakfast this morning was the availability of DNA paternity tests from Boots. They were concerned that all involved — father, mother, and child — should agree to the test. They even suggested that it was a criminal offence to send your child's DNA for analysis without consent (presumably from the mother).

A corresponding article hasn't yet appeared on the BBC News website, but I did find this from Sky News:

Founder Dr Thomas Haizel is convinced the test is a good thing.

"Rarely do we give people results that they weren't expecting. Most of the time, people just want to confirm what they'd thought about a baby not being theirs.

"But everyone has to consent to the test. So even if the mother isn't being tested - if it's just the child and father - the mother still has to give consent for it to happen."

But the scheme does have its dissenters, with LibDem health spokesman Norman Lamb seeing potential for trouble.

"On the face of it, I don't oppose the idea of people having a right to know what their parentage is or finding out whether or not someone is responsible for a child.

"But I can also see there are potential negative consequences and risk of a casual attitude to having a child.

"There's an absolute need for the government and Human Tissue Authority to consider fairly urgently whether the emergence of this requires some rules about how and when it should be used."

The company that sells the tests insists both parents have to provide signed documents and ID certification.

The only article I was able to find from the BBC was from 1998, when home tests first became available:
David Hinchliffe, chairman of the Commons Health Select Committee, called for them to be banned.

"I think it's the children who could suffer most," Mr Hinchliffe said.

"I think they (the firm) are blundering into a very dangerous area.

"They are enticing fathers, obviously on the back of the Child Support Agency issue, to carry out tests without any reference whatsoever to the child's feelings or discussion with the mother. Her consent or views are not taken account of in the propaganda they have issued.

"I hope the company might think through the implications of this because I am sure they must realise that the likely consequences are damaged and destroyed relationships, and I suspect that some people could, as a consequence of this, sadly be even driven to contemplating suicide."
Typical New Labour drivel!

A 'father' should have a right to establish whether he really is the father, with or without permission from the mother. No harm is done to the child by the test itself. And surely the mother is to blame for any emotional repercussions to the discovery of a cuckolding.


Here's the latest BBC News article.

Until now, the paternity packs have only been available online and in a few independent pharmacies.

The chemist says it is the first High Street shop to sell the kits, which let people settle disputes over whether someone is father to a baby without outside help.

The kit costs £29.99, with an extra £129 to get the results back from the laboratory.

The couple and the child each rub a cotton swab inside their mouth, put each one in a specially coloured envelope and send them off to be tested.

Results are returned within five days.

DNA kits have been available online for years and in a few smaller chemists since 2009, but Boots says it's now introducing them into 375 of its stores.

They conclude

People thinking about a test should also know that taking someone's DNA without permission is illegal in the UK and the results aren't accepted by a court.

Child benefits campaigner, Darren Jamieson from CSA hell, also told Newsbeat that making the tests easily available could lead to more couples splitting up and in the long run put more pressure on the Child Support Agency.

Ah yes. Far better that the couple stay together, their relationship poisoned by doubt, with the man providing time and money to a child that isn't his. Madness.

And I suspect that the BBC are being deliberately misleading about the legal issue. I wouldn't normally link to the Daily Mail, but this article from July 2009 says:
It is illegal in Britain to take DNA from an adult without consent. But it is legal to take a swab from those under 16 as long as consent is obtained from a guardian. That would allow a father to test whether he is a child's biological parent without the mother's knowledge.
If I manage to find an authoritative source on this point, I'll post an update.

UPDATE 2 - The Human Tissue Act 2004
Section 45

(1)A person commits an offence if—

(a)he has any bodily material intending—

(i)that any human DNA in the material be analysed without qualifying consent, and

(ii)that the results of the analysis be used otherwise than for an excepted purpose,

(b)the material is not of a kind excepted under subsection (2), and

(c)he does not reasonably believe the material to be of a kind so excepted.

(3)A person guilty of an offence under this section—

(a)is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum;

(b)is liable on conviction on indictment—

(i)to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years, or

(ii)to a fine, or

(iii)to both.

(4)Schedule 4 (which makes provision for the interpretation of “qualifying consent” and “use for an excepted purpose” in subsection (1)(a)) has effect.

Schedule 4

Qualifying consent

2(1)In relation to analysis of DNA manufactured by the body of a person who is alive, “qualifying consent” means his consent, except where sub-paragraph (2) applies.


(a)the person is a child,

(b)neither a decision of his to consent, nor a decision of his not to consent, is in force, and

(c)either he is not competent to deal with the issue of consent or, though he is competent to deal with that issue, he fails to do so,

“qualifying consent” means the consent of a person who has parental responsibility for him.
So it seems clear that the consent of either parent is sufficient, and that the BBC are taking their usual liberties with the truth.

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