DNA technology has certainly revolutionized the field of forensic science, leading to otherwise unsolvable criminal cases being resolved. Even cases that have remained stagnant for years have finally been resolved by the use of this powerful technology. Every person’s DNA signature is so unique that it is now widely accepted that no two individuals will have the same DNA. It is to this effect that many countries nowadays have setup and maintained a DNA database of criminal offenders much like fingerprint databases.
The United States and the United Kingdom are the two countries that maintain the world’s largest DNA databases. Both databases have come under scrutiny and major ethical concerns have been voiced by concerned organizations.
The initial intention of these databases was to hold DNA information of convicted criminals but a growing number of innocent people, such as criminal suspects, have had to submit DNA samples and these records are stored in the same database. There were also cases where DNA samples of criminal suspects were obtained without the consent of the concerned individual. Law enforcement officers were obtaining DNA samples from items discarded by criminal suspects such as drinking glasses or cigarette butts.
Another ethical concern is the potential use of DNA to reveal a genetic tendency for criminal behavior. The question is if this type of evidence should be admissible in courts.
In the United Kingdom, minority groups have raised concerns as to why a big majority of the DNA database consisted of black men.
There are growing concerns that the database is racist and totally inaccurate.
The inventor of the DNA profiling technology, Sir Alec Jefferys, has also voiced concerns on ‘ethical and social issues’ on the way the database was being used. The UK database can be used by forensics for whatever purposes and records can be stored indefinitely.
The DNA database is a powerful tool in crime prevention but its’ use has at times overstepped the boundaries of ethics. There is increasing apprehension that these databases are open for abuse or used by criminals within the government.
The potential for the misuse of the information contained in these databases is a growing problem that has to be solved in order for the databases to remain effective.