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Discovering misattributed paternity in genetic counselling: different ethical perspectives in two countries
  1. Pamela Tozzo1,
  2. Luciana Caenazzo1,
  3. Michael J Parker2
  1. 1Department of Molecular Medicine, Legal Medicine Unit, University of Padua, Padova, Italy
  2. 2Department of Public Health, The Ethox Centre, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Pamela Tozzo, Department of Molecular Medicine, Legal Medicine Unit, University of Padua, Via Falloppio, 50, Padova 35121, Italy; pamela.tozzo{at}gmail.com

Abstract

Misattributed paternity or ‘false’ paternity is when a man is wrongly thought, by himself and possibly by others, to be the biological father of a child. Nowadays, because of the progression of genetics and genomics the possibility of finding misattributed paternity during familial genetic testing has increased. In contrast to other medical information, which pertains primarily to individuals, information obtained by genetic testing and/or pedigree analysis necessarily has implications for other biologically related members in the family. Disclosing or not a misattributed paternity has a number of different biological and social consequences for the people involved. Such an issue presents important ethical and deontological challenges. The debate centres on whether or not to inform the family and, particularly, whom in the family, about the possibility that misattributed paternity might be discovered incidentally, and whether or not it is the duty of the healthcare professional (HCP) to disclose the results and to whom. In this paper, we consider the different perspectives and reported problems, and analyse their cultural, ethical and legal dimensions. We compare the position of HCPs from an Italian and British point of view, particularly their role in genetic counselling. We discuss whether the Oviedo Convention of the Council of Europe (1997) can be seen as a basis for enriching the debate.

  • Genetic Counselling/Prenatal Diagnosis
  • Genetic Information
  • Truth Disclosure
  • Minors/Parental Consent
  • Legal Aspects

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