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Ethical-legal problems of DNA databases in criminal investigation
  1. Margarita Guillén,
  2. María Victoria Lareu,
  3. Carmela Pestoni,
  4. Antonio Salas,
  5. Angel Carracedo
  1. University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain
  1. Correspondence: Professor Angel Carracedo, Institute of legal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, c/San Francisco s/n, 15705 Santiago de Compostela, Spain.


Advances in DNA technology and the discovery of DNA polymorphisms have permitted the creation of DNA databases of individuals for the purpose of criminal investigation.

Many ethical and legal problems arise in the preparation of a DNA database, and these problems are especially important when one analyses the legal regulations on the subject.

In this paper three main groups of possibilities, three systems, are analysed in relation to databases. The first system is based on a general analysis of the population; the second one is based on the taking of samples for a particular list of crimes, and a third is based only on the specific analysis of each case. The advantages and disadvantages of each system are compared and controversial issues are then examined. We found the second system to be the best choice for Spain and other European countries with a similar tradition when we weighed the rights of an individual against the public's interest in the prosecution of a crime.

  • DNA databases
  • forensic genetics
  • ethics

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  • Margarita Guillén, Doctor in Law, is an Associate Researcher, María Victoria Lareu, MD, is Associate Professor, Carmela Pestoni, MD and Antonio Salas, PhD, are Associate Researcher and Angel Carracedo, MD, is Professor, respectively in the Institute of legal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain.