Thou­sands of dads left in shock as DIY pa­ter­nity tests soar

The Mail on Sunday - - News - By Nicola Gill

SALES of ‘se­cret’ pa­ter­nity tests are surg­ing, ac­cord­ing to sup­pli­ers of DIY home kits.

The DNA tests, which can be car­ried out with sim­ple cheek swabs, are lead­ing to grow­ing num­bers of men dis­cov­er­ing they are not the bi­o­log­i­cal fa­ther of chil­dren they had been led to be­lieve were theirs.

Al­phaBi­o­labs, the lead­ing British home test sup­plier, says up to 30,000 pa­ter­nity tests are be­ing per­formed in this coun­try ev­ery year – and that the fig­ures are ris­ing by ten per cent per year.

‘Of th­ese, around 20 per cent of men will learn they are not the fa­ther of the child they are test­ing,’ says the com­pany’s di­rec­tor, David Thomas. He added that in some re­gions the fig­ure is higher, in­clud­ing the North East, where it is 30 per cent.

The ex­plo­sion in de­mand for the tests has been fu­elled by the ease with which de­fin­i­tive DNA pa­ter­nity re­sults can now be ob­tained. For about £99, test­ing kits which prom­ise 100 per cent ac­cu­rate next­day re­sults can be bought on­line.

In­stead of re­quir­ing the phys­i­cal pres­ence at a clinic of both par­ties be­ing tested, they in­volve only swabs taken from the in­side cheeks of fa­ther and child, which are then pack­aged up and posted to the com­pany.

As long as the man is named on the child’s birth cer­tifi­cate, or has parental re­spon­si­bil­ity, no per­mis­sion is re­quired from ei­ther the mother or child, mean­ing the tests can be car­ried out in to­tal se­crecy.

Some web­sites sug­gest DNA can be taken from chil­dren while they are asleep, to avoid awk­ward ques­tions, par­tic­u­larly if the chil­dren are older.

In some US states, con­cern over this has led to a re­cent ban on DIY home DNA test­ing, with all tests now hav­ing to be or­dered by a doc­tor or court of­fi­cial and con­ducted un­der their su­per­vi­sion. In Bri­tain, there is no such leg­is­la­tion cur­rently be­ing con­sid­ered.

Ex­perts warn that the shock of learn­ing a child is not bi­o­log­i­cally theirs can lead to se­vere emo­tional dis­tress for some men, for which they may not be pre­pared. Laura House, a ge­netic ge­neal­o­gist, said that the boom in sim­ple and quick DNA test­ing has over­whelmed the small num­ber of trained ge­netic coun­sel­lors in the UK.

‘There is a pro­found short­age of trained coun­sel­lors who can help peo­ple deal with what can be a dev­as­tat­ingly shock­ing dis­cov­ery,’ she said. ‘Peo­ple now get life-chang­ing re­sults via email while sit­ting alone on their sofa and they are of­ten to­tally un­pre­pared to nav­i­gate the fall­out.’

Last week, The Mail on Sun­day re­vealed the case of Moneysu­permar­ket. com co- founder Richard Ma­son, who dis­cov­ered the three sons he had raised as his own with his ex- wife Kate were not bi­o­log­i­cally his.

Mr Ma­son’s dev­as­tat­ing re­al­i­sa­tion was the re­sult of his be­ing di­ag­nosed with cys­tic fi­bro­sis, which led doc­tors to in­form him he had been in­fer­tile since birth.

Af­ter the di­ag­no­sis, he con­fronted his ex-wife and un­cov­ered the truth that his sons had been con­ceived by an­other man with whom she had con­ducted a four-year af­fair.

The ris­ing num­bers of men turn­ing to pa­ter­nity test­ing sug­gests there are many who feel they may have been duped by women.

Mr Thomas said: ‘ Some­times men will be de­lighted to learn they aren’t the fa­ther – usu­ally when a woman with whom they have been hav­ing a ca­sual re­la­tion­ship tells him he has fa­thered a baby and he can prove oth­er­wise. In other cases it’s the mother who’s or­dered the test to “shut the fa­ther up”.’

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