Doubting fathers using DIY paternity test kits

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A company that sells do-it-yourself paternity testing kits has begun advertising its services in baby changing rooms. The posters, displayed above baby changing mats and offering fathers "peace of mind", have been branded "grossly offensive" by a leading Labour MP and health campaigner.

A company that sells do-it-yourself paternity testing kits has begun advertising its services in baby changing rooms. The posters, displayed above baby changing mats and offering fathers "peace of mind", have been branded "grossly offensive" by a leading Labour MP and health campaigner.

The adverts went up in changing rooms at motorway service areas across the country last week. The kits, which cost £399 plus VAT, can be ordered on the internet from dadcheck.com or by calling a telephone number.

At least 20,000 paternity tests are now conducted in the UK each year. Their popularity has been fuelled by a surging demand for the tests by doubting fathers who face weighty child support bills.

Certainly, dadcheck.com's new advertising campaign could not have been more timely. The most high profile case of genetic testing finally came to a conclusion last week when Steve Bing, an American multimillionaire, was forced to accept he is the father of Liz Hurley's three-month-old son Damian. The result will probably cost him millions of pounds in child maintenance.

Damian was subjected to genetic testing following Mr Bing's original claim that Ms Hurley, an actress and model turned film producer, was "not in an exclusive relationship" when she became pregnant.

The result, which is bound to fuel further the boom in DIY testing kits, follows the paternity deal settled in London's High Court last year by the former German tennis star Boris Becker. He agreed a "generous" financial settlement – reportedly £2m – with a Russian model, Angela Ermakova, who gave birth to a daughter after they had sex in a broom cupboard at the smart London Japanese restaurant Nobu in 1999. Becker had denied he was the father, but admitted paternity after the results of DNA tests.

Dadcheck.com's posters may offer parents "peace of mind" but critics argue they might place the seeds of doubt in the minds of fathers as they change their babies' nappies.

David Hinchliffe, chairman of the influential Commons Health Select Committee, last night called for a ban on direct advertising for DNA testing. "This is unbelievable," he said, "I think it is grossly offensive to market this directly. Somebody can obtain this kit over the telephone but the consequences for another human being are absolutely devastating. It is wrong to promote a product that can ruin somebody's life in this way.

"There are ways and means of establishing paternity but this should be done with sensitivity and with a proper counselling process so that those undertaking the test are fully aware of the implications." He called for a licensing system for paternity testing. Ministers are understood to be drawing up plans that will regulate the business while ordering the Child Support Agency to outlaw kits that do not meet official standards.

The Labour MP added: "It is very sad that motorway services should promote insensitive advertising of this nature in a baby changing area."

The dadcheck.com website promises "the confidential way to determine parentage. Our discrete [sic], sensitive, rapid and confidential service helps you to resolve 'who is the father?' of a child."

The DNA kit comprises "buccal" brushes or swabs to take samples from inside the cheeks of both parents and child. "If mum cannot be tested for some reason," says the website, "then the same charges will apply." Consent forms must also be signed, counselling is on hand and the samples sent back for analysis at dadcheck's laboratory. Currently, the law allows DNA samples to be taken from children under 16, provided consent is obtained from one of the child's legal guardians – which means fathers could take samples without getting a mother's approval first.

Dadcheck's Kerry Lowdon said the company was receiving about five inquiries a day. But she said she recognised the need to be sensitive: "The fathers could get back in the car and not know what's hit them."

Comments