DNA Paternity Testing

ByABC News
November 29, 2001, 4:50 PM

Nov. 29 -- From the beginning of time, doubts about the paternity of a child have fueled family strife. Until recently, those doubts could not be resolved with any certainty. DNA testing has changed that.

Thousands of people each week send blood samples to be tested at DNA labs to find out who is or is not the biological father of a child. According to DNA Diagnostics, a private lab in Fairfield, Ohio, one in three males who undergo such tests finds out he is not the biological father of a child.

The technology has advanced over the last few years, the price of the test has come down, and business is booming.

The process is straightforward: The lab needs a blood sample, a cheek swab, or a strand of hair pulled from the scalp with the roots and follicle attached. DNA testing costs less than $500, and results are available usually in two weeks.

"With DNA, we can prove that he either is the father or he's not," said Lisa McDaniel of DNA Diagnostics. "It is completely definitive."

The consequences of such tests can be less straightforward for the families. Just as DNA testing has had a profound impact on the judicial system, releasing innocent prisoners who have spent years behind bars, for example, so too is it raising ethical, legal and moral questions for many American families.

"These test results can change people's lives," said McDaniel. "People end up in some really difficult situations I think what's most shocking is the nuclear family in America doesn't really exist anymore."

'DNA Doesn't Make a Father'

Betsy and Dan Lynn wed in 1990, vowing their marriage would survive in good times and bad. They had five children, but like so many couples, their love for each other got lost along the way.

"[We] were just 'Mom' and 'Dad'; we talked about the kids, the bills, the house," said Betsy. "Somewhere along the way we had quit having fun and spending time together."

After being at home for five years, Betsy went back to work in a nursing home, where she met a man and had an affair.