February 10, 2011
Genetic Testing Of Disabled Can Identify Incest Cases

Genetic testing to diagnose cause of developmental disabilities can turn out cases of previously undiscovered incest.

HOUSTON -- (Feb. 11, 2011) Researchers using DNA microarrays to diagnose developmental disabilities or congenital anomalies in children may unexpectedly identify that some have been conceived through incest. This raises social and legal issues that institutions and the scientific community must address, said researchers from Baylor College of Medicine (www.bcm.edu) in a report that appears in the current issue of the journal Lancet (http://www.thelancet.com/).

"We have discussed these issues with legal and ethics experts at Baylor and Texas Children's Hospital, and we are considering how best to handle them," said Dr. Arthur Beaudet (www.bcm.edu/genetics/index.cfm?pmid=10579), chair of molecular and human genetics at BCM and a senior author of the report. In most states, clinicians are required to report suspicions of child abuse. If it is suspected that the pregnancy was the result of abuse, then that will need to be reported to child protective services and, potentially, law enforcement. The responsibility of the physician is less clear when the mother is an adult, he said. It may depend on her age and family circumstances when she became pregnant.

These findings have social implications as well. The mother may deny that the incest took place, or she may be fearful for the safety of herself and her child if it comes to light.

DNA testing at birth makes sense for many reasons. Who's the daddy is a big one. Cuckolds should know to file for divorce of course. I knew a guy who got his kids blood tested and discovered they had 3 blood types. Well, at least one of them was not his. The wife refused to submit to a blood test so he could get a better guess if any of them might be his. He is not the only guy I've met who discovered his kids weren't his own. Also, the problem of incest is very real as is the problem of cousin marriage.

Genetic testing cab also turn up genetic diseases of metabolism such as phenylketonuria, homocystinuria, and tyrosinemia. Most of the amino acid metabolism genetic diseases can be diagnosed using blood tests of metabolites. But genetic testing will enable earlier diagnosis of lots of diseases that do not cause clinical symptoms until years later.

Another value of genetic testing at birth: The results can be saved to later identify a baby kidnapped and raised by someone else.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2011 February 10 09:24 PM  Biotech Society

lhf said at February 11, 2011 4:50 AM:

OK - so what if the incest results from a lack of "chain of custody" due to artificial insemination in multiple generations? This is not a hypothetical as it would be possible for a sperm donor with, say, 25 progeny, to extend the reach of his genetic material down through several generations, who could then use, by accident, the same sperm for their own children. The availability of many eggs from the same donor just complicates the math.

Megan McArdle said at February 11, 2011 6:31 AM:

This is only true if his blood type is O. An AO parent and a BO parent could have kids with any of four blood types; most combos would yield three possibilities. My parents, my sister and I each have different blood types.

Randall Parker said at February 11, 2011 11:40 PM:


Thanks, I should have been more clear. In his case the doctor said the 3 blood types were incompatible with his being dad to all 3 kids.

rob said at February 12, 2011 9:20 AM:

Randall, did you friend get DNA tests? DNA tests can determine paternity from the children and putative father. Also, did he divorce her?

marissa said at February 12, 2011 5:13 PM:

They might also want to get tested for chimerism (an interesting trait which has caused at least 2 moms to "fail" maternity tests!).

Randall Parker said at February 13, 2011 6:10 PM:


This happened before the DNA tests were around. The kids are adults now. Yes, got divorced and got extremely shafted by the divorce terms.


I wonder at what frequency chimerism occurs.

Of course said at March 28, 2011 10:46 AM:

I like how your sympathies clearly lie more with men whose wives cheated than women who were raped by the men in their family.

Men are so predictable.

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