Alternate paternity is often invoked to explain contradictions in the results of familial genetic testing. The frequency of alternate paternity is about 5% (i.e., for every 20 patients randomly tested for any disease, biological paternity may not be confirmed). Some Geneticists insist on saying the number is even higher. The scientific community has largely discussed this issue and has defined specific guidelines for addressing the topic during genetic counseling.
HOW TO COMMUNICATE DISAVOWAL OF PATERNITY
The primary scope of clinical genetic testing is finding the disease-causing mutation and nothing else. Hence, any secondary finding like a possible disavowal of paternity must be attentively evaluated the information id given to the patient. For example, a couple sending their child’s DNA to confirm the diagnosis of a rare disorder may have no interest in issues such as paternity. Therefore, disclaiming of paternity might have a big emotional impact and break the familial balance.
However, clearing the paternity might be necessary to conclude the diagnostic process. So, the discussion about that may be necessary at some point.
There’s a golden rule: the possibility of alternate paternity must be discussed with the mother alone first. The physician (or the genetic counselor) should offer the mother a separate appointment, so as to discuss alternate paternity with full privacy. Once things are clear after this appointment, the whole family may be called for full counseling. During this counseling, all alternate explanations for inconsistent parental testing should be addressed:
- sample exchange at any stage
- mistakes in lab procedures
- alternate paternity
Breda Genetics offers paternity testing for several consanguineous combinations (father and sons, brothers and sisters, etc). To learn more about our state-of-the-art paternity testing see our testing menu.