HGM2002 Poster Abstracts: 5. Ethics: Human Genome Databases - Ethical Legal and Social Aspects
POSTER NO: 256
DNA Forensics: Professional and Patient Attitudes Internationally
DNA forensic profiling is growing rapidly. In the USA, all 50 states require that DNA be taken from various types of offenders; 145 labs contribute data to the FBI's Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), which makes possible a national search for offenders and also matches unidentified DNA found at crime scenes. CODIS also identifies missing persons. In July, 2001, there were 707,867 profiles on offenders, and 28,711 from unsolved crime scenes. CODIS is growing at about 100,000 profiles a month, with Myriad Genetics (Utah) and Cellmark Diagnostics (Maryland) doing most of the profiling. For 13 short tandem repeats (STRs) the cost is $50-100 per profile; crime scenes without suspects are more expensive. 1211 offenders have been identified in 30 states, and 667 unidentified crime scenes have been linked with other crime scenes. Remains of about 100 missing persons have been identified from the World Trade Center by DNA. The American Civil Liberties Union has assisted eleven legal challenges to DNA fingerprinting laws, as 'unreasonable search and seizure' forbidden by the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution. All have failed. Courts have ruled that DNA fingerprinting is a 'reasonable' search and seizure or that there is a compelling public interest. Genetics professionals worldwide and patients in France, Germany, and the USA overwhelmingly approve DNA fingerprinting, except for ordinary people like themselves. A survey of 2906 geneticists in 36 nations, including China, 499 primary care physicians and 476 genetics patients in the USA, 394 patients in France, and 593 in Germany found that most thought DNA fingerprinting should be done for persons convicted of sex crimes (95%), convicted of other serious crimes (89%), charged with, but not convicted of, sex crimes (79%), or charged with, but not convicted of, other serious crimes (71%). Most thought DNA should be kept on permanent file for those convicted (90%) or charged (55%). Majorities of genetics professionals (69%), primary care physicians (73%), US patients (86%), French patients (60%), and German patients (62%) thought members of the armed forces should have DNA fingerprinting to identify casualties; fewer (38% of genetics professionals in USA, 21% in Canada, 26% in UK, 80% in China, 63% elsewhere, and 73% of US patients) would DNA fingerprint newborns to avoid mix-ups in the nursery; fewer still approved DNA fingerprinting of passport holders (21% of professionals globally, 56% in China) or credit card applicants (US patients 34%; French patients 12%; German patients 10%). Most people preferred DNA profiling for 'criminals', but not for ordinary people like themselves (passport or credit card applicants). The survey, although done before September 11, 2001, suggests that there may be considerable opposition to national identity cards.
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