Ethical and legal issue raised by DNA fingerprinting in France
Medicine and Law 1996; 15(3): 479-483
As soon as DNA identification tests have been introduced as a new powerful tool in criminalistics and in paternity testing, this new technology has immediately aroused a mixture of ethical concerns, suspicion and interest among scientists and non- scientists. The major concerns about the so called `DNA fingerprints' were related first to the possible constitution of data based by the police agencies for the purpose of identifying and investigating individuals as potential criminal suspects, and secondly to the risk of a widespread use without safeguards for private investigation as establishing paternity or the typing of a person for insurance companies. In this context, and in order to preserve civil liberties and the respect of individual privacy, the national Consultative Bioethics Committee advised, as early as 1989, the French government that DNA identification should be strictly limited to judicial use and performed by accredited laboratories. After a long debate, this recommendation has finally been adopted in July, 1994 by the French Parliament. As a result, France is presently the only member state of the European Union with such restricted legislation. This is not without raising difficulties in the implementation of the law, especially in the field of paternity testing where the demand is growing and can be satisfied in any other neighbour country.
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