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The Pros and Cons of DNA Profiling

written by: DaniellaNicole•edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski•updated: 2/28/2010

The pros and cons of DNA profiling bring up questions related to privacy, civil liberties and justice. What is DNA profiling and how can it help . . .or hurt the individual?

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    What is DNA Profiling?

    To understand the pros and cons of DNA profiling, one must first understand what DNA profiling is and involves. DNA profiling is the process of using DNA for the identification of an individual. As one example, it is one of many techniques used by law enforcement to capture criminals and eliminate suspects from suspicion. It is also referred to as DNA fingerprinting, DNA typing and genetic fingerprinting.

    The process of DNA profiling involves analyzing gathered DNA material samples in order to create a profile or DNA identity for the person in question. This can then be compared to other collected DNA samples in order to exclude others from consideration or to identify a high-probability matching individual.

    In paternity cases, DNA from the child in question is compared to the DNA of possible fathers. According to DNA testing company Identigene/Sorenson Geonomics, “According to DNA paternity testing accreditation guidelines, a paternity report must show a CPI of greater than 100 (and a probability of paternity greater than 99.0%). Most courts, child support agencies, or other legal entities require an accredited paternity test report . . . . Immigration cases require a CPI value of 200 (99.5%) or better."

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    The Pros of DNA Profiling

    Less Invasive. Taking a DNA sample is less invasive than taking a blood sample.

    Reducing and Reversing Wrongful Convictions. When used properly and in conjunction with other forensic tools and evidence, the number of wrongful convictions can be reduced. According to an article by Rob Weekes, “An FBI study indicates that since 1989 DNA evidence has excluded the primary candidate in 25% of sexual assault cases. Moreover, forensically valuable DNA can be found on evidence that has existed for decades, and thus assist in reversing previous miscarriages of justice."

    Protecting the Innocent. The proper use of DNA profiling can help rule out clear non-matches in paternity cases and crimes in which DNA evidence is present. This can be helpful to those who are wrongly or falsely accused.

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    The Cons of DNA Profiling

    Privacy. Some consider any request for a DNA sample to be a violation of an individual’s right to privacy and a violation of their civil liberties.

    Access to and Use of Data. Some legitimate concerns about DNA collection and profiling involve the access others would have to it and what they would do with it. Health insurers could conceivably use it to deny coverage or claims. Prospective employers could avoid hiring those who have certain genetic traits or risks for certain diseases. Public humiliation could ensue with the public release of ‘embarrassing’ genetic findings such as in the case of hermaphrodites and adults whom have chosen to have gender reassignment surgery.

    Wrongful Convictions. While the appropriate use of DNA can be helpful in reducing and reversing wrongful convictions, inappropriate use of it and the sway of it over other evidence on juries and judges can create a system of wrongful convictions. Errors can be made and people conducting the tests, conceivably, could be convinced through criminal means to produce the desired outcomes. All of these issues make DNA profiling a tool with less than 100% accuracy.

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    Summary

    It is clear that any use of DNA profiling must be carefully considered. The pros and cons of DNA profiling illustrate the advantages and risks involved in any type of DNA collection and use.

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    References

    DNA Database for Criminals. Rob Weekes, World Universities Debating Championships Winner, 2002. Last modified December 31, 2009. http://www.idebate.org/debatabase/topic_details.php?topicID=139

    Understanding DNA Paternity Test Results. Identigene/Sorenson Geonomics. http://www.dnatesting.com/dna-testing/paternity-test-results.php