6 Advantages and Disadvantages of DNA Fingerprinting

One way of uniquely identifying an individual is to use DNA fingerprinting or profiling. This is the process of using a person’s DNA which is a unique biological map pointing to a particular person and his or her kin. Nowadays, this method has been widely utilized in law enforcement for solving crimes as well as identifying criminals. This can also be used to prove or disprove certain consanguinity claims.

Basic Information about DNA Fingerprinting

This method involves the gathering of samples from the subject. However, it doesn’t require too much sample from the person. Perhaps only about 100 mcg of sample will suffice to map an individual’s biological information. For instance, a splotch of saliva over a drinking straw should be more than sufficient for a particular DNA sampling.

After taking the right amount of sample, the significant regions will be amplified. Experts use the PCR or the Polymerase Chain Reaction in order to create some copies of these regions which include STRs or Short Tandem Repeats. This will vary from one person to another.

Once the STRs are amplified, the repeats will then be counted. The process involves attaching the fluorescent dyes onto the copies of the STR. The mixture of STRs will be run through a capillary electrophoresis machine sizing different DNA fragments. When the size of repeats have been determined, it will become easier to identify each STR length and the repetitive unit count.

After doing all that, the next thing to do is to look for matches. So, a person’s STR that matches that of the sample at the 13 regions of the STR should be at risk of being convicted. However, some may argue regarding the accuracy and reliability of DNA fingerprinting. Technically, the margin of error of such is just 1 in a billion samples. Here are lists of advantages and disadvantages of DNA fingerprinting to determine if this method should work for you.

List of Advantages of DNA Fingerprinting

1. A Less Intrusive Method
Sampling the DNA of a person need not require a massive amount. Although sampling will require mapping and matching of the person’s DNA, only a tiny amount of biological footprint is necessary. Thus, it will be a lot less intrusive for the subject. Likewise, when it comes to crime scenes, the biological footprints of the suspect that may not be so visible to the naked eye will be enough to know the identity of the person. Hair strands, saliva, and smudges or blood should be sufficient.

2. May Reduce Conviction of the Innocent
The use of DNA fingerprinting should be able to reduce the number of conviction of innocent individuals when used properly. This should work more reliably when used together with other forensic evidence and tools. Forensics will be able to collect samples and store them for future reference or samples can be matched directly with the current data.

3. Helps Solve Crimes as well as Identity Issues
Samples of DNA that have forensic value will still be available and collected as valuable evidence regardless of the time that has passed. This is because DNA is a very flexible and tough molecule which doesn’t denature that easily. So, even those evidences that are gathered from very old crime scenes can still be used by authorities. This is also a good way to identify cadavers as well as proving or disproving any kinship of particular individuals.

List of Disadvantages of DNA Fingerprinting

1. This Can Violate the Privacy of a Person
Some people could be cautious about acquiring their DNA information, as this would intrude upon their privacy. Sometimes, authorities will force individuals to undergo DNA fingerprinting regardless if they are guilty or not because it is part of gathering of data. Basically, DNA databases involve samples from convicted criminals or other innocent people such as juvenile delinquents and asylum patients. The moment a person’s DNA has been mapped and stored, it can no longer be removed.

2. This Raises Concerns Over Access from Third Parties
There are many organizations and businesses that would require control over a DNA database. They would include insurance carriers, healthcare providers, and some employers, to name a few. However, this can be daunting to know that the DNA identity of a person can be clearly available and can be accessible by strangers. The reason behind this is that employers would want to know more about their recruits in which they can use to cause employment bias if they think that the applicants have genetic anomalies or defects.

3. Can Be Used Wrongly to Convict the Innocent
The fact that samples can be taken from a smudge of saliva or strand of hair should make it possible for authorities to gain DNA profiles of innocent persons who accidentally been around the crime scene. This can happen because extraneous DNA can likely dilute crime scenes in public places like phone booths or restrooms. Likewise, DNA of innocent individuals can be used purposely to be able to pass the blame. Hence, the reliability of results should depend greatly on the equipment, personnel and laboratory.

Final Thoughts

The profiling of DNA has begun in the 1980s after scientists discovered the VNTR or variable number tandem repeats in the hair strands of blood-related individuals. After several years, DNA fingerprinting already became available commercially in identifying criminals and resolve cases in the past. So, instead of examining the VNTRs, DNA fingerprinting will be examining the STRs.

Forensic investigation, these days, have become dependent on DNA fingerprinting to identify criminals. However, it will require weighing the advantages and disadvantages first because it is a highly critical application which could mean the life and death of the innocent person. Hence, authorities should be able to preserve the crime scene the best they can in order to avoid contaminating or inundating the DNA samples.

Nevertheless, it depends on how you look at DNA fingerprinting as advantageous or not, as long as you know what to do when you defend your stand.

Author Bio
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.