Social and Ethical Issues
For some, DNA holds a happy ending. For others, the ending maybe grime.
Without a doubt, DNA is increasingly playing a large role in how criminal cases are being solved. Whether conviction or exoneration, the DNA of suspected criminals can be used as a key decision making tool when resolving criminal cases. For Darryl Hunt in Winston, Salem who was released from prison on a wrongful conviction of rape and murder, DNA saved him from more time in prison.
Although DNA testing helped set Mr. Hunt free, other educators such as Seyed E. Hasnain from the University of Hyderabad warns the public and other agencies that DNA fingerprinting should only be used for criminal investigations. He warns us to think of the damage that could be done if DNA is used to predict if a person is vulnerable to criminal activities or illnesses such as cancer or HIV. What impact would DNA have on a person getting a job or purchasing insurance? Research has shown that DNA testing is very accurate in identifying characteristics of individuals.
In 2004, law officials in Charlottesville, Virginia resorted to a DNA sweep out of desperation when a rapist could not be found. Approaching 197 African American men, law officials asked that they volunteer to provide DNA samples. Although 187 persons agreed, no conviction was made. However, the damage to the community was felt. Many saw the sweep as a form of racial profiling and an invasion of civil liberties. In other communities, such as Miami, New York, Ann Arbor, Michigan and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, police have collected DNA samples through swabbing thousands of suspects. Convicted or not, those who have been swabbed will find their DNA stored in a DNA databank.
As DNA use increases, we maybe challenged at balancing our constitutional rights and freedom. Many worry if this will be a new constitutional battleground for our country. While it is too early to tell, it is not to early for citizens to become more educated around this these issues.