Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Controlling the DNA database

"Technology can be a powerful force for human rights. Earth-observation satellites, for example, have provided evidence on conflicts and ethnic atrocities in areas where journalists are banned. And DNA fingerprinting has resulted in the freeing of wrongly convicted individuals, a role exemplified by the US Innocence Project in New York. The idea that the identity of a human can be revealed from samples of any cell in his or her body is a symbol of the fact that every person is unique. The declaration of human rights asks us to treasure and honour all these unique individuals with respect for their autonomy — not to simply look for better ways to barcode them." —Nature

"The point [the European Court of Human Rights] is making is that DNA carries information not just on yourself, but also on family relationships. So, it's an invasion of privacy and of family life. I totally agree. They also made the point that it stigmatizes branches of society. The innocent people are not a random cross-section of British society — they are strongly biased towards juveniles, towards ethnic minorities and so on." —Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, inventor of DNA fingerprinting

1 comment:

Jock Coats said...

Hi - I found your blog as a result of reading about it in "Question That's" top 50 blog list and sicovered you are in Oxford. Always good to find another Oxford blogger.

On the issue here, I have also often felt that retaining DNA is somehow also bit of a breach of "habeas corpus". It may be philosophically tenuous, but it seems to me that storing the very code of one's life is like storing a little bit of you - in a different way from say a fingerprint, which although is personal is something external - a mark you have left behind, rather than a bit of you either left behind accidentally or, in the case of the database, actually taken from you. An invasion of the individual themself.