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UK Paternity DNA Testing and the Human Tissue Act (Part 1)

UK Paternity DNA Testing and the Human Tissue Act (Part 1)

Paternity DNA testing is a highly reliable means of establishing paternity. In the UK, independently of the type of test, you need to be aware that there is the Human Tissues Act, implemented in 2004. The Act repeals and replaces previous acts and covers England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is aimed at limiting and controlling the use storage of human tissues, which of course includes DNA. There is the Scottish Human Tissue Act implemented in 2006. 

The amount of tissue is irrelevant so that even the smallest DNA sample could be considered in breach of the law if the person from whom that DNA comes from has not given their consent. In many countries outside the UK, collecting the necessary samples from any people involved poses no problems, whether the people involved are aware of their samples being taken or not, however people purchasing the test will need to assume full responsability for collecting those DNA samples.

What was the driving force behind such an Act?

The Human Tissue Act was created for a very valid reason and although many seeking a paternity DNA test see it as a major nuisance it is a necessity as the following case exemplifies.

The scandal in question happened between 1988 and 1996 in Alder Hey Hospital, Liverpool.  The hospital was considered a state of the art hospital by world standards. However, a shocking scandal emerged. The babies that died in the hospital during that period were stripped of their organs, including hearts. Some organs such as thymus glands had even been removed during hear surgery whilst the child was alive. Hundreds of foetuses were also stored at Alders. This was not the first organ scandal in a UK public hospital although Alder’s scandal was unparallel and described as gruesome and grotesque. Organs from Alder’s were sold to pharmaceutical companies for research and in return the hospital received substantial donations. The situation caused uproar and multiple grievances to families who had their dead children’s organs coming back after their child had been buried. All these tissues had been taken without parent’s consent and following this scandal many others in various hospitals came to light.

Collecting DNA Samples for My Paternity Test

Collecting DNA samples is normally not a problem. You need a paternity test with father and child and wish to add the mother’s samples just to strengthen the result. So as long as everyone agrees to the test, then you can proceed to gather a DNA sample from all the test participants. DNA testing companies will supply you with the necessary swabs to swab the father, the child and the mother. However, these companies are well aware of the Human Tissue Act and any serious company will inform you about this law and will require all test participants to sign for their own DNA sample.

The Human Tissue Act applies in cases where it is not possible to get explicit consent from all test participants for their DNA sample. To be exempt from the 2004 Act, any people from whom you take the DNA sample need the following:

  • They have to be aware that their DNA sample is being taken.
  • They need to know why their DNA is being used and moreover, know that results will be used for an expected purpose.
  • They need to give their full consent, referred to in the Act as ‘appropriate consent’.

The Human Tissue Act is to be taken extremely seriously as your paternity test is regulated and conditioned by it. Always ask your provider if in doubt as to what you can or cannot do.

 
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