Germany Bans Secret Paternity Tests
Late last month, Germany banned secret paternity tests from being carried out without the consent of those involved. It was the lower house of Germany's Parliament which sanctioned the ban and the new laws are quite comprehensive.
The rules do not only cover paternity tests for adults and children but also any prenatal tests which people might wish to carry out too. The German Government claim that the ban is intended to stamp out any 'abuse' of paternity tests, with some reports suggesting that until recently fathers could (and would) take a swab of a baby's saliva and then get it tested against their own DNA without informing the mother of the child. The ban means that any man choosing to do this will be fined.
Paternity Tests - The New Legislation
After more than 7 years of debate on legislation regarding the ethics and fundamentals of genetic testing on human beings, the ban was finally sanctioned. However, it will still need to be assessed by the upper houses of Germany's government before being put fully into effect.
The new rules mean that only qualified professionals can engage in paternity tests and that anyone whose DNA might be involved must formally provide their consent for the tests to be lawful. Anyone who violates the ban by breaking these rules will be issued a hefty fine of 5,000 Euros.
In addition to the standard paternity tests which are affected by the new rulings, other forms of DNA tests will also be banned. For example, parents are not allowed to find out the sex of an unborn child using DNA tests at all. They are also prohibited from finding out whether their child will be genetically pre-disposed to any specific diseases as it matures except in certain strict cases.
The legislation was almost a decade in the making because of the numerous ethical implications of any given ban (or lack thereof) relating to paternity and prenatal DNA tests. Some critics of the new laws say that they restrict innocent fathers unfairly by removing the chance for them to discover paternity of children in their care without having to confront potential conflict with the child's mother. However, in defence of the ban the German government describe the legislation as being in the child's interest.
Simple paternity tests are widely available all over the world and can even be bought from websites or ordered over the phone. To use a DNA testing kit, a sample is collected from inside the mouth of the children and alleged father and then sent to a laboratory for testing. The process is easy and painless and can cost as little as £99 in the UK.
In Germany, companies provide the same affordable kits, but once the ban has come in to effect more red tape will mean that only specially licensed laboratories can legally carry out the tests. Not only will someone in need of answers have to fill out forms documenting their consent (and the consent of others) to have tests carried out but they will also need to find a doctor and lab willing to perform the testing.
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