Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Genetics, Genealogy and Ethics

Tonight's episode of NCIS "Enemy on the Hill" raises some of the ethical questions that are beginning to become more common as adoptees increasingly use DNA testing to find their biological families. The interpretation that a complete mitochondrial match means that the criminalist in the NCIS lab, Abby Sciuto, had discovered a sibling may not be exactly correct. However, some to the emotional issues that were raised are very real.

In the show Abby discovered the match accidentally when she volunteered to donate a kidney. At the end of this week's episode, Abby has reached the conclusion that she is adopted and is struggling with the question as to why her parents had not told her she was not their biological child. She has yet to tell her newly discovered DNA match that she thinks she is his sibling even though she did visit the pet shop where he worked and had a conversation with him. I don't know if this theme will be continued in a future episode.

It is issues like this one that will be part of a chapter on ethical issues raised in DNA testing. This will be a book on genetic genealogy that I will be co-authoring with CeCe Moore who blogs as Your Genetic Genealogist. Our book should be out in 2012.

You can view the episode online and see Abby's quandary.

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