The Positive And Negative Effects of DNA ProfilingJustin BroylesApr. 12, 1995Justice TheoryLance MillerGenetic engineering has developed and blossomed at a frightening rate inthe last decade. Originating as merely an area of interest for scientists,genetic engineering has now become an area of which all people should besomewhat knowledgeable.
DNA profiling has many uses, both positive and negative, in our society. Aside from its usefulness in many legal investigations, DNA profiling can beused in the workplace to discriminate against employees whose profiles couldpose a financial risk. For example, genetic technology can and has been used todetermine the capacity of a person to contract certain diseases, such as sickle-cell anemia, which could cause many employers to hesitate in the hiring andtraining of such people. In the early 1970’s, the United States began a carrierscreening for sickle-cell anemia, which affects 1 in 400 African-Americans. Many of those identified as carriers mistakenly thought they were afflicted withthis debilitating disease.
Furthermore, confidentiality was often breached, andin some cases, carriers were discriminated against and denied health insurance. Nevertheless, genetic profiling has been beneficial in paternity suits and rapecases, where the father or the assailant could be identified. However, despiteits growing number of utilizations, DNA profiling is extremely hazardous whenresults are inaccurate or used to discriminate. The frequency of genetic testing in criminal investigations (more than1,000 in the U.
S. since 1987) has been increasing dramatically despite theinconclusive testing by the scientific community in many aspects of forensicidentification. A correlation between DNA patterns taken from a crime scene andtaken from the suspect has often been enough to charge a person with the offensein spite of proof that some procedures for testing DNA are fallible by legal andscientific standards. The complexity of scientific evidence, especially DNA profiling, hasalso caused many problems within the legal profession. It is no longer enoughfor attorneys or members of the jury to merely be knowledgeable about the law.
People need to familiarize themselves with today’s scientific research ratherthan relying on the credentials of a scientific expert witness. Too often, jurymembers become in awe of the complicated, scientific terms used in court andtake a scientist’s testimony as fact. Lawyers need to increase their scientificknowledge and keep up with ongoing research in order to competently question andunderstand scientific evidence put forth. But these do not represent the only possible downfalls of DNA profilingin criminology.
The involuntary seizure of one’s blood or hair undermines theconstitutional rights guaranteed to all citizens by the Fourth Amendment(protection from unreasonable searches and seizures). Nevertheless, many arguethat a DNA sample taken from a suspect could lead to an indictment or release ofthe individual and, thus, warrants an exception from the Fourth Amendment. Besides, one could make a plausible argument that, once held in custody, theseizure of a person’s strand of hair does not violate a suspect’s FourthAmendment rights or rights of privacy because the hair is visible. However, the use of DNA profiling does not end in criminalinvestigations. DNA testing has ventured out of the courtroom in an effort toshow a genetic link between race and violent tendencies. If successful, thislink will do nothing but justify prejudice attitudes toward minorities,particularly the black race.
Furthermore, such biological approaches towardscriminality do not take into account sociological factors, such as poverty, andwould inevitably lead to the practice of controlling minority children with theuse of therapeutic drugs or worse. For this and other reasons, courts of alllevels must implement harsher scrutiny in the area of genetic profiling and itsuses. There is also a current effort to create a national database of DNA,much like the existing database of fingerprints. Supposedly, the use ofnumerical codes will allow huge databases to search for a match of a individualDNA band. However, these matches are not 100 percent.
This inconclusivecorrelation between DNA patterns has led to a heated debate which has culminatedin federal court with Daubert vs. Merrel Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc. The ruling inthe Daubert case said that the acceptance by the scientific community is notenough by itself to allow certain scientific techniques into court as evidence,especially given the reality that a suspects entire future could hang in thebalance of a scientific finding. Many people have argued that the use of a national DNA databaseinfringes on the individuals constitutional rights to privacy.
However, lawofficials have claimed that the