Who’s Your Daddy?
Filed Under: Health & Science, World | Posted: 01/22/2009 at 10:41AM
Comments | Region: United States
DNA Tests Reveal Unexpected Complications and Truths
Two brothers discovered they each had a different father. Their mother, now elderly, rejected accusations that she either had an affair or adopted one of her sons.
Perry Kinkaide, 66 and a distant relative of the brothers, told the Times, "I’m sure in the history of the Kincaid family, there’s been some fooling around. If that’s unique to this family, I’d be surprised."
In answering the question, “How many of us are not our father’s children?” the Times cited a 2005 analysis which compiled the results of more than 17 blood and DNA test studies. It concluded that the rate of “non-paternity” averages about 4 percent, though it differs along cultural and geographical borders.
For determining both ancestry and illness, retail DNA tests have become increasingly popular in the last few years. Time magazine rated 23andme, a DNA testing service that can determine one’s likelihood of 90 different traits and disposition, one of Time’s "Best Inventions of 2008."
Anne Wojcicki, co-founder of the agency, calls the test results “the digital manifestation of you.” She told Time magazine that she was comfortable sharing her and her husband’s test results, including her unborn child’s risk of contracting Parkinson’s disease, because "I think in 10 years it will be commonplace to learn about your genome."
According to Time, however, skeptics argue that genes are only one component of disease and often aspects of one’s environment are responsible for “triggering” their responses.
“Since less than a tenth of our 20,000 genes have been correlated with any condition, it’s impossible to nail down exactly what component is genetic,” said Anita Hamilton in Time.
Still, DNA testing services continue to expand. Head of the National Human Genome Research Institute, Dr. Francis Collins, the man in charge of the government team responsible for the human genetic map, told Wired, "[S]cience is running ahead of public policy.” Collins warned, “The majority of claims that are made on those websites aren’t scientifically sound."
In May 2008, in response to the proliferation of drugstore paternity tests, R. Alta Charo, a professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison told MSNBC, “We all need to take a step back and realize that this is different than many tests that you take. This is a life-changing moment.”
Rick Borchelt, a representative of the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, told MSNBC he worried that people might misinterpret results and make unwise medical decisions.
According to findingDulcinea, state governments such as California and New York have attempted to regulate freely operating gene-testing services. In June 2008, California unsuccessfully mandated that all such companies end direct-to-consumer testing. Only one agency, HairDX followed orders, and submitted to the state’s terms. New laws require New York and California residents to meet with a doctor before ordering any online tests. “Overall, 24 states prohibit or limit so-called direct-access testing without a doctor or other medical professional’s involvement,” Forbes reported.