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The era of free DNA and its social consequences

Half-siblings can discover each other, adoptees and single-parent children can discover their parents, and this is just the beginning. The ability to carry out genetic testing will have social and ethical implications, in addition to the health effects

genetic tests. Photo: shutterstock
genetic tests. Photo: shutterstock

The era of free DNA has arrived and it has fateful meanings especially in cases of adoption, sperm donations, and in cases of children born out of wedlock. The nickname 'the era of free DNA' originates from today's reality where every person on the globe can send a saliva sample to a commercial company and receive their genetic profile. Companies of this type provide genetic information directly to the client (without the mediation of a doctor) which includes genetic risk factors for diseases, genetic origin, and also the discovery of clients with genetic-family affinity. Usually this is very interesting and harmless information, which allows the client to learn about himself and his genetic roots.

Over 2 million satisfied customers have already performed a DNA test privately, but for some of them their lives have changed in a completely unexpected way. A recent example, an American lecturer sent a genetic sample to one of the companies for testing, and the company's computer system identified another customer with a high genetic affinity to him. The level of genetic similarity identified between them was calculated as a level of similarity between half-siblings (a quarter of the shared genome). The lecturer made contact with the client who is genetically similar to him, an anonymous guy from another country in the US, but the conversation between them turned up nothing. The lecturer turned to his father who admitted that he had an affair before his marriage and a child he never knew, the father longed to meet the lost biological son. But unfortunately, the significance of the discovery shattered the lecturer's family framework and due to the great emotional burden, his elderly parents decided to separate.

In another case, a Canadian citizen, who was given up for adoption as a child, tried for 50 years to find his biological family but without success. After performing a genetic test, he discovered a match with his sister (shared half of the genome) and met his mother for the first time in California, USA. Despite the joy at the exciting and surprising family reunion, there were difficult feelings regarding the circumstances of giving him up for adoption and the relationship with the biological family was severed a short time later. In this case the elderly biological mother had a hard time coping with the reunion with the son she gave up for adoption. Her daughter expressed bewilderment at the shattering meaning for the family that resulted from her innocent decision to send her saliva sample for genetic characterization. Similar stories are published in the American press once every few weeks, but since these companies are international and have customers from Israel as well, the day is near when we will hear about an Israeli version.

These examples, despite their relative rarity, prove that there are unexpected social consequences to the genetic revolution that allows each person to receive their genetic profile and discover biological relatives. The meaning is stunning. For example, a man's anonymous donation to the sperm bank is no longer anonymous. Children born as a result of fertilization from sperm taken from a sperm bank will be able to discover their sibling or any of their biological family members in the future when they send the sample for genetic characterization. In this way, adopted children will also be able to locate their biological parents, and children from single-parent families who do not know their father. Even worse will be the discovery of children who are not the biological children of their parents and were born as a result of an extramarital affair... The DNA may reveal dark secrets and it is uncertain whether the participants and their family members are interested or ready for it.

A personal genetic test is a very interesting and recommended thing, you can learn a lot from the genetic information produced in such a test and it is also nice to discover distant and unknown relatives using this tool. At the same time, participants in genetic projects should be aware of the slight possibility of an unexpected surprise. The public systems also need to adapt to the new situation in which there will be no value to closed adoption files, nor to the "anonymity" of sperm donation. It is clear that in a liberal country it is not possible to prevent a citizen from sending his DNA to a genetic company, nor does it seem that there is any policy in the US in particular to limit the free activity of private companies from engaging in the field (except in the medical field). But it must be remembered that the DNA testifies and testify to our biological connections without the need to reveal documents cataloged in locked offices or personal secrets and memories from the past, and in the era of free DNA, participation in such genetic projects will eventually lead to the discovery of every personal biological secret.

One of the references to the reported cases

4 תגובות

  1. Once upon a time when someone suspected that his child resembled a neighbor, he had to live with this fear for the rest of his life. Today he simply takes a saliva sample of himself and the child, sends it in the mail and within two weeks receives a genetic mapping of both including a result: father or not father.

  2. Nir
    There was a detailed article on this topic in the Friday news edition on Channel 6 more than a year ago. This is the Judean region. The article also mentioned a number of their customs of Jewish origin. In Pakistan lives a tribe of 300 million people called Pathans who are of Jewish origin and they were forced to convert to Islam XNUMX years ago. A similar genetic imprint was found among Jewish groups and this refers to the Jews of Poland and the Jews of Iraq. A genetic test was done for all those whose surname Cohen was found to have a clear genetic similarity

  3. I read that a large part of the Palestinians who live in Hebron and the villages in the Hebron area are actually Jews who forced them to convert to Islam. Such genetic testing of the residents there could cause even bigger crises than what you described in the article.

  4. In the recently released book, "From whom did you inherit it" written by Prof. Sharon Moalem, a whole chapter is dedicated to this matter. It's worth reading.

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