Ethical Concerns About National DNA Databanks

DNA testing can reveal a lot of personal information, such as being at risk for diseases, biological parents, family genetic information and sexual orientation and other factors. This information delivered to the wrong hands can cause serious problems for

DNA testing can reveal a lot of personal information, such as being at risk for diseases, biological parents, family genetic information and sexual orientation and other factors. This information delivered to the wrong hands can cause serious problems for certain individuals. This information could be legal in nature and put an innocent person under suspicion for any future crimes committed within the community at large. This scenario can occur when a suspect was apprehended, but later exonerated from the crime.

DNA profile genomes raise health issues that could cause an insurer to refuse a claim. It is also possible that schools, and religious organizations or social organizations, can refuse admittance based on DNA evidence.

So confidentiality must remain a mainstay for the databases. The release of this information must constantly be monitored and given only to people or organizations that have a valid and legal reason for the information.

At present many law enforcement agencies do not destroy DNA samples from people who were suspected but not actually convicted of the crime. Again, it is conceivable that the entire DNA genome (all genetic information) can leak out into the wrong hands.

There is a backlog of DNA samples that need to be entered into the CODIS database, since there is a statute of limitations in many cases, this information that could have been useful in the determination of verdict in a case will now be rendered useless.

Discretion concerning legal DNA testing for legal purposes

Which cases require DNA testing and why. The rules are different worldwide. In the UK, all arrested persons must submit to a DNA test. Is this a good practice or not? Should the whole DNA history of an individual be revealed to the court system because the arrested individual is suspected of shoplifting? Where should one draw the line?

On the other hand, in the USA, the individual State decides who to test and who not to test. A landmark case changed the practices of the State of New Mexico, regarding DNA testing. The Katie's Bill was passed requiring DNA testing for almost all felony charges when suspected of a felon. Prior to this law only convicted felons underwent DNA testing, but the murder of Katie Sepich remained unsolved. Her murderer was discovered only years later when his DNA was entered in the database because he convicted of an entirely different felony. He escaped the first time because he was never convicted. With the new law, anyone arrested even though not yet convicted, will undergo DNA and murderers will be identified much quicker.

Again, as in the case with the UK, is testing DNA on everyone before being convicted ethical? This procedure does raise concerns in the USA as it is in violation of the Fourth Amendment with regards to “unreasonable search and seizure” practices just to obtain DNA sampling.

“As of September 2007, all 50 states have laws that require convicted sex offenders to submit DNA, 44 states have laws that require convicted felons to submit DNA, 9 states require DNA samples from those convicted of certain misdemeanors, and 11 states—including Alaska, Arizona, California, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia—have laws authorizing arrestee DNA sampling.” see

Canada's Forensic Database Situation

 

On May 1, 2007 Gloria Galloway of The Globe and Mail reported that Canada also has an enormous backlog for entering DNA evidence into the National Database. She updated the article on March 31, 2010. Like all concerned citizens she is concerned that “murderers and rapists continue to roam the streets”, while the government drags their feet.

Former RCMP Commissioner Guiliano Zaccardelli denied that there was a backlog in 2004. He maintained that all DNA analyses is done within 15 days for major cases. There is a backlog and it is growing, very few DNA samples are in two weeks, in fact it is less than one percent of the samples that are processed and coded in that time says Auditor-General Sheila Fraser says there is a backlog, it is growing, and fewer than one percent of DNA samples sent to the RCMP Forensic Laboratory Services are processed in less than two week, says Auditor-General Sheila Fraser. Most samples in 2004-2006 took and average of 114 days, and these samples included sexual assault and murder cases. Delays such as these slow down the police investigation and get the criminals off the street. For the full story click here.

Sources:

http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/elsi/forensics.shtml

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/article753078.ece

 

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