Finding Daddy At The Drugstore

It is not uncommon to hear stories about people we know, or are even related to, tells us that they found out that they have a grandchild they did not know, or man learns after twenty years he is a father, or perhaps another man learns that his daughter is not actually his biological daughter.  In any one of these situations, this crucial genetic information alters people's lives dramatically.  Needless to say, there are countless stories that are very much the same.  What is amazing is that much of this information is not coming from a doctor or any other medical professional, but from an at-home paternity test that can be purchased for $29.99 at your local drugstore.  These paternity test kits collect the DNA samples, which are sent to a lab for analysis.  One such lab is Identigene, where it routinely provides DNA testing from the comfort of one's home. 

Initially, when these at-home paternity tests first hit drugstore shelves, they had an overwhelming effect, such that the Rite Aid Corporation expanded the sales of the Identigene by Sorenson Genomics of Salt Lake City to 30 states.*  Many consumers were buying these kits mainly because they were curious, and they were looking for answers to questions that they had for some time.  With that in mind, samples of the child's and father's DNA are collected following the pregnancy.  Whereas, if any DNA testing that is completed during the prenatal stages, would require the assistance of an obstetrician. 

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But to genetics experts, the sale of these at-home paternity kits raises questions of accuracy and ethics.  “From our perspective, direct-to-consumer genetic tests raise all the same issues for lax government oversight, potentially misleading or false advertising and the potential for making profound medical decisions on the basis of poorly interpreted or understood results,” Rick Borchelt, a spokesman for the Genetics and Public Policy Center at John Hopkins University.*  So these at home paternity tests have taken their place on drugstore shelves, next to other diagnostic test kits, and interestingly enough, those kits do not rely DNA testing, including pregnancy, HIV and blood sugar.  The identigene kit includes swabs for collecting cell samples from inside the child's cheek and that of the alleged father.  Although the mother's cells are optional, it is strongly encouraged for optimal results to strengthen test results. The swabs are then mailed to the lab where they are analyzed.  For the best accuracy, it is recommended that DNA samples be submitted to an AABB accredited lab.  The results can be available online, by phone or by mail in three to five days.  The results are returned with a probability figure that verifies paternity with 98 to 99 percent accuracy.  So what began as a kit priced at $29.99, the final total price is approximately $150.  This price includes the price of the kit and the fee of $119 for lab processing fees.  If the purchaser wants a validated test that meets the legal requirements for determining paternity, there is an additional $200 fee.

Do these tests hold up in court?  Attorneys who specialize in reproductive technology advise consumers that they should not count on these at home paternity test kits.  There is still not enough information and data that has yet to be collected to determine how viable the test results are.  In other words, the court may not decide to establish the chain of custody with just a drugstore test kit as the only piece of evidence.  Since the cells are taken in private, there is a greater opportunity for fraud and deception.  An ethics question is raised when a swab is taken of an individual without their knowledge, and it also preys on the issue of informed consent. 

By using these in-home paternity test kits, many people are getting answers from Identigene to questions they have.  However, the problem is whether the DNA results are, for better or for worse, accurate.  Regardless of the accuracy of the genetic lab that is selected, something to consider is that those results can be life altering.  If the kits are unreliable, then lives are being altered with the wrong information.  You definitely may get what you paid for when other unaccredited labs are used for the final analysis, and is one reason it is important to chose Identigene with its proven accuracy and results.

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