Richard G. Petty, MD

DNA Databases

Regular readers will have noticed that I’ve written a lot less over the last couple of weeks, as I’ve had to scuttle to and from the UK.

England has really changed in the last few years. I probably noticed more than most, because although being born and bred in England, with the exception of changing planes at Heathrow, I’ve been away for a few years.

It is just stunning how many closed circuit TV cameras there are now. I hear that the average Londoner now expects to be photographed around 20 times a day.

The cameras are said to have helped solve a lot of crimes. Apart from hordes of hapless drivers caught by the traffic cameras.

Something even more interesting to an American Citizen, is the rapid growth of the massive British DNA database, that now has samples running into the millions, and has lead to the apprehension of a number of villains and ne’re-do-wells. Though I am a huge proponent of individual liberties, I thought that this was a good use of technology that would probably never fly in the USA. I remember all the furor over those two youngsters who denial in the driving deaths of two innocent people was nailed by a sensor in their car. Many people cried “Foul,” but I rather thought that the idea of criminal penalties was to catch and re-educate people who broke the social contract. Instead some have suggested that the citizen should seek to outwit the law. A slippery slope, IMHO.

So though I knew that the FBI has established a DNA database in the USA, I wondered whether data from it will be admissible in court, and how circumscribed would be the use of the information in criminology. I had imagined that its use would be severely limited by the courts but now I’m learning otherwise.

USA Today reports that the national database of criminals’ DNA, originally designed by the FBI to help solve rapes and murders, is now increasingly being used to identify suspects in unsolved burglaries and other property crimes.

I learned that in 10 states — Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia and Wisconsin — the total number of DNA matches in property-crime cases has exceeded the number of matches in violent crimes.

In my home state of Georgia, of the first 171 matches, only 13 involved DNA from the scenes of unsolved burglaries. Of the 300 matches that followed, 79 were in burglary cases.

Civil libertarians have worried for years abut mass fingerprinting, and collecting DNA seems yet more intrusive. It is important that we have a good discussion about the ways that DNA is collected, stored and the data used.

Many of us are already worried about the ways in which some medical insurance companies may want DNA analyses to determine whether you are a good risk to insure. If you have, say, a gene for breast cancer, then they may decide not to give you medical insurance. This is one of the many reasons for our intense focus on the “New Genetics,” that are teaching us that biology is not destiny. In most cases, just because someone has a high-risk gene does not mean that they will inevitably develop an illness.

Because of the kind of work that I have done, my fingerprints are on file, and my DNA is preserved in a number of freezers around the world. Personally I have no problem with that.

With all that DNA sloshing around, perhaps I should scan the news more often. To see if someone’s announced that they’ve cloned me. If they did Dolly the sheep, maybe Petty the Doc will be next??


About Richard G. Petty, MD
Dr. Richard G. Petty, MD is a world-renowned authority on the brain, and his revolutionary work on human energy systems has been acclaimed around the globe. He is also an accredited specialist in internal and metabolic medicine, endocrinology, psychiatry, acupuncture and homeopathy. He has been an innovator and leader of the human potential movement for over thirty years and is also an active researcher, teacher, writer, professional speaker and broadcaster. He is the author of five books, including the groundbreaking and best selling CD series Healing, Meaning and Purpose. He has taught in over 45 countries and 48 states in the last ten years, but spends as much time as possible on his horse farm in Georgia.

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