The controversy of application of DNA analysis: DNA records and ethical issues
Nowadays, the development of new technologies, especially in the field of genetics, opens new opportunities for investigation and creation of database, where the information concerning offenders can be stored. In this regard, the development of genetics made it possible to create DNA databases which could facilitate the work of law enforcement agencies in identification of offenders. However, the creation of DNA databases evokes a strong opposition from the part of the public because the important personal information could be revealed. At the moment the practical implementation of DNA databases and DNA use in the process of investigation evokes a number of ethical issues, which make it a highly controversial problem.
First of all, it should be pointed out that the development of genetics provides ample opportunities for the effective use of DNA information in the process of investigation. Basically, this information may be used not only in regard to offenders but also in regard to victims. To put it more precisely, using DNA information it is possible to identify an individual and, unlike other means of identification such as the use of fingerprints, the DNA analysis is more reliable and precise. At any rate, it gives practically one hundred percent guarantee that the DNA analysis give precise information about the identity of a person, either victim or offender (Gros, 1989:176).
Naturally, in such a situation the use of DNA should be accepted and the DNA analysis should be widely used in the contemporary investigation process. However, the DNA analysis and the creation of DNA databases still encounters a number of objections from the part of the public as well as from the part of civil rights organizations. In order to understand the reasons for such an opposition to the wider use of the DNA analysis and creation of DNA databases, it is necessary to briefly dwell upon the essence of the DNA analysis and potential risks related to the revelation of DNA information of an individual.
Basically, it should be said that originally the DNA analysis is used to identify the personality of an offender or victim. On the basis information, it is possible to use this information as the means of convincing the guilty as well as the means of exonerating the innocent (Davis, 2001:210). Taking into consideration the high reliability of the DNA analysis this means is very effective that makes its wide application quite logical and even necessary in a way.
However, the DNA analysis and the creation of DNA databases have another, negative perspective. To put it more precisely, DNA samples can not only be used to identify individuals, but it can also be used to produce information in relation to health, paternity and other personal issues (Davis, 2001:189). Naturally, such private information becomes available when DNA samples of an individual are taken.
The problem is that an individual cannot be absolutely sure that his/her DNA sample will be used properly, while there remains a risk of the misuse of the DNA information. In such a context, the creation of DNA databases would deteriorate situation consistently since DNA information of individuals would be available for the misuse. Naturally, the authorities attempt to convince the public that the risk of the misuse of the private information is minimal and the use of DNA information will be strictly limited (Harris, 1998:75), but potentially it is hardly possible to guarantee the total prevention of breaches of private information.
As a result, the public opposes to the introduction of DNA databases, which people view as a threat to their private information and their civil rights. In this respect, it should be said that the state, while introducing such a system, receives an additional means of control over the population because such personal information that is stored in DNA may be a very powerful tool in hands of those in power (Condit, 1999:104).
On the other hand, potential benefits of DNA databases and the DNA analysis is also undeniable since DNA information facilitates consistently the investigation process and trial, while in some cases it may be even the only evidence that proves either guilt or innocence of an individual.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the practical implementation of the DNA analysis and the creation of DNA databases evoke a number of ethical issues and provokes serious discussion in society. On the one hand, DNA information may be really helpful in identification of an individual, offender or victim, while, on the other hand, DNA samples contain personal information, which people are not willing to reveal.
At any rate, DNA samples give too much personal information to make the creation of DNA databases and DNA analysis socially acceptable. Obviously, the opposition will persist as long as the personal information of people is at stake. In such a situation, the necessity to find a compromise between the rational need of DNA information for investigation purposes and the protection of private information of people is obvious.