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Spread Of DNA Databases Sparks Ethical Concerns

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Police forces have already tracked down criminals through the DNA of their innocent relatives, a practice that is both a goldmine for investigators and, according to skeptics, an ethical minefield. Charles Tumosa, a clinical assistant professor in forensic studies at the University of Baltimore who is wary of the potential for genetic surveillance, says relatives of suspects could be identified through DNA and leaned on for information about their family members.

“There’s got to be a debate,” said Tumosa. “Nobody has talked this out.

“At what point do you say, enough is enough? Do we want to have a society where 5 percent of the crime is unsolved, or do we want to have a society where 100 percent of the crime is solved” but privacy is compromised. “What’s the trade-off?”

And yet familial DNA searches have helped solve terrible crimes. In Kansas in 2005, police identified Dennis Rader as a serial killer known as “BTK” through his daughter’s DNA obtained, without her knowledge, from a pap smear in her medical records.

Investigators in Massachusetts say advances in DNA technology may finally establish beyond doubt the perpetrator of the 1960s Boston Strangler slayings. They plan to exhume the body of longtime suspect Albert DeSalvo – who confessed to the crimes but was never convicted – after DNA from one of the crime scenes produced a familial match with him.

Both supporters and critics of DNA databases point to Britain, where until recently, police could take the DNA of anyone 10 or older arrested for even the most minor offense – and keep it forever, even if the suspect was later acquitted or released without charge.

Police say the database has helped solve thousands of crimes, including murders and rapes. On the other side of the coin are hundreds of thousands of innocent people, including children, who feel shamed and tainted by inclusion on a database of criminal suspects – a status some legal experts say undermines the presumption of innocence.

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Posted by FanningCommunications on Aug 1st, 2013 and filed under Techline. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response by filling following comment form or trackback to this entry from your site

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