Gp's originally became involved in DNA testing because blood was the prefered sample type - indeed the BMA's current guidleines still refer to blood sampling rather than the more modern buccal swab sampling technique. Their position was cemented by the introduction of the Dept. of Health which in March 2001 published it's hugely important voluntary Code of Practice and Guidance on Genetic Paternity Testing in the UK.
The Code was an important step forward as it set out standards for DNA testing companies to follow and a means for the general public to compare providers of DNA testing services and several of it's recommendations impact directly on GP's:
1. "Those giving consent to a test should be fully informed of its purpose, accuracy and the potential consequences of the test result."
This process of consultation is something that GP's get involved in as a signifcant number of people look to their GP for help and advice on issues such as relatinoship testing - Cellmark's research shows that in the past 6 months as many as a third of GP's will have been asked about the issue. The results of a DNA test may produce unexpected results and this may result in a requirement for further counselling - potentially from the GP.
2. "Testing must not take place unless consent has been obtained in respect of all parties."
The GP can become a key individual in establishing that consent has been obtained from all parties - partly through the conselling process and partly through their involvement in confirming the identity of those to be tested. Since the introduction of the Human Tissue Act this has increased in importance.
3. "It is strongly recommended that persons involved in commissioning a paternity test appoint an independent sampler to collect and verify samples as it is the best way of ensuring the authenticity of the paternity test."
This is of critical importance to testing companies such as Cellmark. For the results of a test to be acceptable to a court it must be possible to proof that the "chain of custody" of the sample has been maintained throughout the entrie process. The GP's role of independent sampler, with no interest in the case and of physically witnessing the taking of the sample and confirming the identity of the those to be tested is key to proving the chain of custody.
Cellmark regularly seeks the views of GP's on the issue of DNA relationship testing and we find thatn there are a wide range of attitudes the the subject amongst the GP community:
- Aware of the emotional, ethical and legal issues and are happy to help.
- Those who believe that it is something that is available on the NHS or they admit they donít know where to look for information.
- Those who believe it is an "emotional minefield" and do not want to get involved.
- Those who believe it is a legal issue and who may undertake testing, but only after lawyer has set it up.
Cellmark provides a range of information, downloadable from this website, which is designed to help GP's when one of their patients wishes to discuss the issue of DNA relationship testing. Alternatively you can call Cellmark free on 08000 362 522 for further information and advice.
Advice for your patients
View and download a pdf version of our Paternity Testing brochure.
How to choose a paternity tester
The key points you and your patients need to consider when choosing which company to use.
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