DNA testing to me had always seemed like a far-off possibility for the future. Now with sites like 23andMe, Ancestry.com, and Family Tree DNA that promise results at the relatively affordable price of just $99, it has become clear to me that this is, in actuality, a possibility for young adoptees, as well. In fact, one of my adoptee friends recently told me that she was asking for a 23andMe test on her Christmas list.
I took a look at the 23andMe website after she told me about her Christmas wish. Though the company claims to have one of the largest databases, the likelihood of transnational adoptees being able to find family through the site seems relatively fairly low, simply because the target audience is an affluent English speaking population. In this regard, the ancestry seeking element of the DNA testing is essentially useless to me.
A very attractive component to 23andMe that the other two sites mentioned lack is the access to genetic health information. I certainly understand why adoptees have a desire to know this information. I have thought about genetic testing in the mindset of finding out if I have any recessive traits or am a carrier for any genetic diseases that I could potentially pass on to offspring. What concerns me on a significant level about the health information component to 23andMe is the commercialization and profitization of knowing people’s intimate health histories.
In most states of the United States, it is illegal for adoptees to retrieve their original birth certificates. This makes it nearly impossible for many adoptees to obtain their own medical records from the hospital they were born in, because in many cases, they don’t know where it is, the name of the hospital, or the names on the birth certificate of either parent. Being able to possess your own original, unaltered birth certificate is something that I think should be a basic right for every human being. People who are non-adopted can hold this essential piece of paper in their hands. For adoptees, though, their original documents are government owned and locked away.
While 23andMe may think that they are providing a service to people with limited health histories, I believe what they are doing could actually turn into a disservice to domestic adoptees (in particular) who lack health information. When adoptees are drawn to 23andMe, a seemingly much simpler process of finding out biological information, the company profits and simultaneously less pressure is put on the legislature to ensure more adoptee rights. The use of private companies like 23&Me could become an excuse by lawmakers for not making original birth certificates and health information available to adoptees. If laws are to change in favor of adoptees, we cannot lax the fight until domestic adoptees have access to their basic rights and information.
The FDA has recently given 23andMe a final warning that they have not met the requirements to prove the accuracy of the results. Since the first warning in 2010, the company has been selling the over-the-counter DNA test kits illegally.
- If you would like to hear more adoptee’s ideas about DNA testing take a look at the discussion on Transracial Eyes –http://transracialeyes.com/2013/11/09/dna-r-us-genetic-testing-etc/
- House OKs measure to allow adoptees to get birth certificates (readingeagle.com)
- FDA tells 23andMe to halt sales of genetic test – USA TODAY (newestgadgetsinfo.com)
- Stop selling those DNA tests, FDA tells 23andMe (nbcnews.com)