Discovering misattributed paternity in genetic counselling: Different ethical perspectives in two countries
Tozzo P., Caenazzo L., Parker MJ.
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.