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Can scientific DNA testing be conducted on a deceased person in a paternity dispute?
01 August 2019  | Dries Knoetze
 

Before dealing with the question above it is necessary to first and foremost indicate what does DNA paternity testing entail?

According to the Wikipedia DNA Paternity testing means:

“The use of DNA profiles to determine whether an individual is the biological parent of another individual. Paternity testing can be especially important when the rights and duties of the father are in issue and a child's paternity is in doubt. Tests can also determine the likelihood of someone being a biological grandparent. Though genetic testing is the most reliable standard, older methods also exist, including ABO blood group typing, analysis of various other proteins and enzymes, or using human leukocyte antigen antigens. The current techniques for paternity testing are using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP). Paternity testing can now also be performed while the woman is still pregnant from a blood draw.”

 In a DNA paternity test, the result (called the 'probability of parentage), is 0%, when the alleged parent is not biologically related to the child, and the probability of parentage is typically 99.99% when the alleged parent is biologically related to the child.

 A further question to ask is how does DNA paternity testing work?

DNA analysis involves the direct examination of the genetic material that a child inherited from its biological parents. DNA is located throughout the human body and is identical in all cells. DNA in the blood is therefore the same as that in the skin, lungs, muscle, bone and various other tissues. An individual’s DNA is completely established at conception and never changes throughout life. Every individual’s DNA is unique except for identical twins. Since it is so specific, just like a fingerprint, DNA paternity is the most powerful form of testing.

During the paternity testing, the genetic characteristics of the child are first compared to those of its mother. Those characteristics in the child that cannot be found in the mother have been inherited from the biological father. If the tested man (alleged father) does not have the genetic characteristics necessary to be the biological father of the child, he is excluded. If the tested man’s DNA does contain those genetic characteristics, then the probability that this man is the biological father is calculated and reported by the laboratory.

What is the procedure to get a paternity test performed?

To perform a paternity test at DNA level a blood sample is required from the mother, alleged father and child. Children of any age can be tested. Unlike the traditional blood tests where the child had to be six months of age, there is no age limit with DNA. Paternity testing can be performed on unborn children. Prenatal paternity testing can be performed with amniotic fluid or a chorionic villus sample collected from the mother’s womb prior to birth or with fetal tissue. Paternity testing can also be performed using post-mortem specimens.

Can paternity testing be done without a blood sample from the one of the parents?

Yes, it is possible to perform paternity testing by comparing DNA profiles from only the child and an alleged father when the mother is deceased. Legal guardianship is most important. However, it is strongly recommended that the mother be included in the testing. When the entire marker patterns match, paternity can be considered VALID, not necessarily PROVEN.

In the matter between D v M and two others, Held in the High Court of South Africa, Gauteng Division, Johannesburg, under case number: 30619/2015, the Court after considering the application brought by an executor of the estate of a deceased person, in terms of which the executor request that the High Court ordered the mother of a minor child as well as a minor child to subject themselves to a DNA test, in order to establish whether another minor child of the deceased were in fact the biological child of the deceased.

In this matter and various other matter before it was established that a High Court with the necessary jurisdiction may be approached to as in the matter of D v M and two other to force the parties to subject them to DNA testing and even to exhume remains of a deceased person to enable DNA test to be done. 

Unistel Medical Laboratories, who is currently the recognised Medical Laboratories used in Maintenance disputes used the following tests to determine paternity:   

Kinship Analysis

Kinship Analysis investigates the relationship between potentially related individuals.

Sibling Testing

In a case where the alleged parent(s) are not available for testing, a DNA profile Sibling Test can be performed to determine whether two individuals do in fact share the same biological parent(s). If available, it is recommended to test the mothers of the children, since half of their DNA is inherited from the mother and can be eliminated to compare the other half of the DNA against the alleged father. Statistical calculations are used to generate a percentage probability value. This value determines the most likely relationship between the individuals tested. The degree is given in the form of a likelihood ratio or odds (the greater the odds are in favour of one scenario, the more certain one can be that it is correct).

Grandparentage Testing

In a case where the alleged father is not available for testing, a DNA profile Grandparentage Testing can be performed to investigate the likelihood that they are the biological grandparents of the grandchild. It is recommended to test both grandparents in order to obtain the most conclusive results, since the child would have inherited DNA from the alleged father that also originates from the grandparent that was not tested.

Uncle/Aunt Testing

In a case where the alleged father is not available for testing, a sibling of the alleged father can be tested against the child, using the DNA profile Uncle or Aunt Testing to investigate the likelihood that they are biologically related.

Y-chromosome Profile Testing

The Y-chromosome profiles are used to follow the paternal lineage, i.e. strictly male to male inheritance.  All the sons of a man will have the same Y-chromosome profile. Full brothers, paternal half-brothers, male children of brothers (paternal cousins), etc. will all have identical Y-chromosome profiles, indicating that they are from the same male lineage.

From the above it is clear that although a Court of Law can be approached in order to either force compliance from a person who refuses to provide a DNA sample or even to exhume the body of the decease person to enable DNA testing to be done, Unistel can use DNA sample obtained from siblings, Grandparents and Uncle/Aunts to provide a report to prove paternity.

It is however submitted that you approach the offices of a legal representative should you have the need to establish paternity to ensure that the correct process is followed.

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Tags: DNA