When deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) first emerged during the 17th century after being discovered by Friedrich Miescher, it has become a staple in many industries around the world. Whether for clinical or forensic research, DNA testing has been something that we turn to in legal matters or even to determine the paternity of a child. What we are able to do and not do with DNA has stirred up a variety of debates among the general population. Even though DNA can be a useful tool, there are many different ethical and justice-related issues with it.
1. What is DNA Testing Used For?
There are dozens of different reasons as to why people may want to look into DNA testing. There are 3 common applications that are widely used throughout society today:
DNA testing to determine whether you are at-risk for developing a disease can be a great way to give you the opportunity to prevent the illness from affecting your livelihood. This type of screening has given many people the ability to undergo preventative surgeries and treatments to avoid serious illnesses including cancer.
Law Enforcement Investigations:
When it comes to convicting or proving the innocence of a defendant, DNA is essential. Whether it is from a hair left at a crime scene or bodily fluids, DNA can be extracted from the sample and used in the courts.
In the event that there could be more than one parent involved with the conception of a child, paternity tests compare the DNA of both potential parents and the child to determine who the father is. This can also be used for legal purposes in the event that it is needed by a court order.
2. DNA Testing in Medical Research
Imagine having the ability to screen yourself for genetic diseases that could seriously impact your life in the future. With the help of DNA, we are now able to know whether we are at risk for various diseases including cancer. This can be an intimidating thought to some people, but it can also be a way to get peace of mind. Once you have found out that you are at-risk, you can begin to take the necessary steps to make sure that you can live a long and fulfilled life. One of the most popular examples of this is Angelina Jolie who opted for a double mastectomy after finding out that she was at-risk for developing breast cancer.
DNA testing in medical research can also be used to determine whether parents are carrying specific genes that could prove to be harmful to their child. There are a variety of diseases that can occur through the genes of two individuals mixing together. Knowing whether you and your partner have said genes is the perfect way to make an educated decision on whether to have a child or not.
As a negative aspect of DNA testing for medical research, it can put people in uncomfortable situations where they find out about diseases that they otherwise wouldn’t want to know about. It essentially creates a Pandora’s box that an individual will always want to open but is afraid of what would come out of it. At times, patients may even be tested in hospitals without their knowledge and find out that they are however likely to develop said disease, putting their mind into a state of anxiety.
Finding out about illnesses that you may be prone to developing can also force you to drastically change your lifestyle which can be time consuming and stressful. As an example, you may stop eating certain foods that people have said cause the illness, do an extensive amount of research about disease-causing agents, and more. This can be quite overwhelming.
3. DNA Testing in Law Enforcement
The criminal justice system relies mostly on DNA testing to determine whether an individual is innocent or not if they are convicted of a crime. There have been various instances where DNA testing has helped to reverse the convictions of individuals who have been wrongly accused of certain crimes. There are also cases where people have been released from prison after numerous years due to the inability to test DNA in the past.
Not only is this type of testing in law enforcement essential for determining the innocence or guilt of an individual, but it also helps to weed out faulty professionals in the system. As an example, in the past, law enforcement officers or prosecutors would be able to twist words and make things seem like a certain individual committed a crime or not. When in today’s society, they can say whatever they want but at the end of the day – there isn’t any DNA evidence to support their theories.
However, the use of DNA in forensic cases is not completely tamper-proof as there have been plenty of instances where evidence has gone missing or has been altered to support the theory of the defense or prosecution. Handling DNA improperly or using it to manipulate the opposite party can also help to sway a case in a particular direction. It is important that DNA is to be used in addition to regular police work and more safety measures should be in place to prevent DNA databases from being tampered with.
4. DNA Testing in Paternity Cases
Whether for legal reasons or simply because a parent may be curious, DNA testing can be used to determine the paternity of a child. In most cases you will be able to visit your family doctor to get a paternity test, though there are various sources on the internet where you can do at-home tests. There are many more benefits to paternity testing that reach far beyond making sure that the appropriate parties receive child support.
Paternity testing helps to prove whether a father is really the father of a child so he is able to form an unequivocal bond with his child – in comparison to not knowing whether he is responsible for their birth or not. It can also help to give the entire family peace of mind as they will have the answers that they have always wanted.
It is important to note the family affairs that may arise from determining the true paternity of a child. It could lead to lies being uncovered that a child may not have previously known or issues that the family may have with the birth father. It could also lead to distant relatives disrupting the child’s life once they have found out that they are biologically related. This is why many families choose to opt out of paternity tests as it can cause mental pain and can disrupt an otherwise happy family.
DNA has many uses from forensics to paternity testing and though there are many advantages to uncovering this science, there are disadvantages as well. Before using them in your personal life, it is important that you consider both to make sure that everyone is sufficiently prepared for the outcomes. There are many other uses for DNA testing that we may see in our everyday lives or watch in our favorite television shows and movies. It is essentially a science that is still being developed and refined to this day.