Tuesday, September 12, 2006

DNA Databases gone awry?

by team UAB, jla

If we, as a society, continue to solely rely on DNA databases for conviction of crimes, then what's next? Profiling based on genetic code could become a possibility (anyone seen the movie Gataca?).

In Britain, a national criminal database established in 1995 now contains 2.5 million DNA samples. Countries including the United States and Canada are developing similar systems.

Jeffreys, who was knighted in 1994, welcomes DNA databases but has qualms about how the British one has been set up. He fears that stored DNA samples could be used to extract information about a person’s medical history, ethnic origin or psychological profile.

And he opposes the practice, approved by a British court in 2002, of retaining DNA samples from suspects who are acquitted, leading to a “criminal” database that contains many people guilty of no crime.

“My view is, that is discriminatory,” Jeffreys said. “It works on a premise that the suspect population, even if innocent, is more likely to offend in the future.”

Jeffreys advocates a truly national database including every individual, with strict restrictions on what information could be stored.

“There is the long-term risk that people can get into these samples and start teasing out additional information” about a person’s paternity or risk of disease, he said. “The police have absolutely no right to that sort of information.”.


Forensic Bloggers said...

Jeffreys brings up a good point about paternity. Even with "useless" junk forensic dna numbers where health information wasn't available, anyone with access to the database (the gov't) could take a glance and find the mailman's kid.

i think the numbers where the father thinks his wife's kid is his but it isn't, are a lot higher than one would expect.

-blogger jgl

Anonymous said...

the implications of having a dna database are very scary. on the medical side, it's a double-edge sword. one can determine the genetic likelihood of certain diseases that run in families. this could lead to the avoidance of certain triggers or the use of genetic therapies. that same information could lead to an insurance company not covering for that particular disease or its treatment for that person. on the judicial side, genes that have been or will be identified as "bad" genes that lead to a person being more inclined to a life of crime could label a child from birth as a trouble-maker or a mother to abort her baby to prevent the possiblity of that kind of life. as important as the area of genetics is, the knowledge from it requires a tight reign. unfortunately, any government can and will use any information and claim it as a necessary evil to prevent other governments from using it against them. using blood or other fluids to identify someone in a case doesn't just identify that one person, those fluids identify that one person's family and past.

Forensic Bloggers said...

for sy - "double edge sword" is a good way to describe it. people may end up volunteering their DNA for the good things (disease prevension, etc.). Then it is just a question of who has the right to access the information.


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