Monday, February 14, 2011

DNA Revealing Evidence of Incest

The medical journal Lancet reports that genetic researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston are finding that some of the DNA from children they analyze shows evidence that the children were conceived by close relatives, and this is raising ethical issues about patient privacy laws and mandatory reporting laws.

Julie Steenhuysen reported for Reuters

New gene-based tests that map out a person's entire genetic code can help explain why a child has birth defects or developmental delays, but they are also exposing some dark family secrets.

There’s a difference between rape… and fun or loving sex between consenting adults or teen experimentation. I wouldn’t call the later two “dark.” As you can see from reading my blog, I believe sex between consenting adults, as long as they aren’t breaking existing vows to others, is a good thing, and should not be a criminal matter.

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston recently started using such tests and have uncovered several cases of likely incest, says Dr. Arthur Beaudet, chairman of molecular and human genetics at Baylor, who wrote about the problem on Thursday in the journal Lancet.

Rape is a problem. It is a problem regardless of whether it is incestuous or not.

The tests, called single nucleotide polymorphism-based arrays, allow doctors to scan a child's genome for extra or missing copies of genes that could explain their disability.

But they can also show large, identical chunks of DNA that a child might have inherited from two closely related relatives, such as a father and daughter, raising social and legal issues that institutions and the scientific community must address, Beaudet said in a telephone interview.

"The concern mainly stems from the possibility of children being sexually abused in the home, most often girls between 12 and 16 years of age," he said.

So it is okay if she is sexually abused by a non-relative? Of course not. If she is a minor, she isn’t legally able to consent to sex in the first place. Note that looking for biological evidence of incest wouldn’t uncover abuse by unrelated stepfathers or stepbrothers or adopted brothers or adoptive fathers. Focus on fighting child abuse and rape. Don’t lump consensual adult sex with abuse.

Disabilities are frequent in children born of incestuous liaisons.

Slightly more frequent than the general population.

U.S. doctors are legally and ethically bound to disclose cases of suspected child abuse to authorities.

Again, if she is a minor, she isn’t legally able to consent to sex in the first place, so if a report would be made in the case of pregnancy by a close relative, shouldn’t it be made if there is any pregnancy in the first place? However, unless there was coercion, drugging, force, or something of that nature, if it was with someone close to her age and she claims it was consensual, that should be the end of the matter as far as criminal law is concerned, in my opinion.

Nancy Spinner, a professor of pathology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, said her team had encountered two cases of incest since it began using SNP-based arrays from gene sequencing company Illumina Inc in May 2008.

So out of all of the screenings to determine the genetic cause of disabilities (4,500, it turns out) only two were from close relatives. That means all of those other children with disabilities came from people who were not close relatives. DNA tests before conception of the child could have given an indication that this was a possibility.

Here’s an Associated Press version.

Scientists conducting DNA tests on disabled children may inadvertently make startling discoveries of incest, sparking a range of ethical dilemmas that require guidance, doctors say.

Startling? It is really startling? Starting that some adults abuse children? Or startling that people who are close to each other and love each other may have sex?

I remind my readers that today, Valentine’s Day, you should remember that there are people who still don’t have the freedom to marry, including loving couples living as spouses but banned from marriage under the law because they are close relatives.
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  1. Your selective citation of the article is dishonest. You omitted the section where children of incest are revealed to suffer from health and developmental defects ABOUT HALF THE TIME. They are not "slightly" more likely to have problems, but GREATLY.

  2. I didn't include that quote because it is contradicted by many other authorities, if we're talking about genetic problems caused as a direct result of the close relation of the parents. "Health and developmental defects" is a phrase wide and fluid enough for the Pacific Ocean. Do we include depression? ADD? ADHD? Anything on the autism spectrum? Bipolar? Any learning disability? Anything less than perfect hearing or perfect vision? If so, that's going to probably be around half of ALL children from any parentage.

    And I'd say DISCRIMINATION can cause developmental disabilities, wouldn't you agree?

    The fact is, there are more children than you might realize who have been born to close relatives who have grown up to be independent, even healthier/more intelligent-than-average people. You don't hear much about them. (Typing error corrected.)

  3. Notice that some of the reports on this medical journal piece say the highest risk is between parent-child or sibling births, at 25%. That's half of 50%. So clearly there is some fudging of numbers going on, depending on how scary someone is trying to be.


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