Saturday, July 13, 2013

Invasive Government?

Does an individual have any abiding rights to their own DNA? Police followed a person they acknowledge was uninvolved in crime, and collected DNA from a drink bottle discarded at their workplace. The DNA was then used to link a dead relative to a series of crimes 50 years ago, and showed probable cause to force exhumation of the accused relative's remains.

The Boston Globe reports (13 July 2013, p.A7) that the extended family of Albert DeSalvo and his nephew "were outraged by collection of the DNA without their permission." A spokesman for the ACLU is quoted: "It's not hard to understand why people would be uncomfortable with having samples of their DNA collected and used without their knowledge."

Yet Professor of Law Rosanna Cavallaro of Suffolk University defends the police action. She claims: "It's pretty clear that any kind of discarded material is fair game for the police to retrieve and use to obtain information. If I take a cup and throw it in the garbage, that's saying to the world, 'I lost interest in this, it's not important to me, and I no longer care what happens to it.'"

One problem is technology is quickly developing. In the near future, if not now, cells and DNA are likely be bases for creating body parts or even cloned individuals. Would we have no say in such experimentation with our personal genetic material?

When we discard something in the trash, we've the expectation it's to be trashed, not that it serve as an experimental sample for the police, raw material for commercial laboratories, or a disqualification exhibit by our health insurance company.

Prof. Rosanna Cavallaro is a doofus. Or perhaps the newspaper printed only part of her comments. If "Rosanna+" clones were surreptitiously brought to market, she'd surely start singing a different tune...