DNA Search in Argentina

Once again I am afraid I have fallen behind here.  I know there are a ton of comments–many I have not had time to read yet.  I’ll get to that soon.  But in order to keep moving, I wanted to pass this along first.   It’s a story from the BBC

It’s fairly well know that during the period of military dictatorship (1976-83), some (perhaps many–the article says 500) young children of those deemed leftists were forcibly separated from their parents by the state.   Often the parents were killed while the children were placed with families deemed to be supportive of the junta.   

The remaining family of the disappeared, often the preceding generation (grandmothers/grandfathers of the children) have sought to identify and trace these children, who have by now grown into adults.   The way to do this is by collecting DNA and matching samples. 

And this leads to the BBC story.   Felipe and Marcela Noble are heirs to a media empire.  But they may also be children born in custody to parents who were subsequently executed.   Certainly they were adopted in 1976. 

It’s not clear from the article whether the Noble’s (who are now in their thirties) want to establish their genetic lineage or not.    They provided blood samples in compliance with a court order.   The day after they did so, they allege that their home was raided by the police who seized toothbrushes and hair brushes, presumably also in order to secure DNA evidence.    The Argentinian Congress appears to be in the process of enacting a law that would provide for forced extraction of DNA from adults who might be the children of political prisoners.

Although the article does not discuss this directly, it seems clear that at least some of the adults who may be children of political prisoners do not want to know their genetic lineage.   Surely if they did there would be no need for court ordered provision of blood samples or forced extraction of DNA.  

In the context of many of the more recent discussions on this blog, that’s interesting.   There’s been lengthy consideration of the rights of children to know their genetic heritage.   Is there any right not to know?    My initial reaction is to think that there might be. 

To move this to the context in which its been frequently been discussed here, if a child is concieved using donor sperm and is offered the opportunity to find out information of the donor, do they have to take the information?   Can they refuse to look at it?  

I think this might be a reasonable analogy.   The Nobles know they are adopted.   They apparently do not wish to know anything more about their origins.   Do they have to?  (I might be wrong about the Nobles desires–I concede this is not in the article.   But I take it there are some people in the position they describe.      

  Of course, the adults whose lineage may be in question are not the only adults concerned here.   In most cases there are probably other surviving members of the families–be they grandparents or aunts or whatever.    In my analogous case, there are the gamete donors themselves.  And here I do think my analogy breaks down.  Surely the surviving family  members have a stronger claim than do the gamete donors, who willingly provide the genetic material in question.  

In any event, I’ve thought a bit less about the possiblity of a right of access to information in preceeding members of the lineage.     It does make the picture more complicated.

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3 responses to “DNA Search in Argentina

  1. Julie, you say There’s been lengthy consideration of the rights of children to know their genetic heritage

    I think it better to say: the rights of children to have access to registered genetic information about themselves. Anonymous sperm donors are not “anonymous” (nor are they “donors”). They are known and registered, but the children are denied access to the records.

    It is an interesting question if grandparents (and other family members) should be have the legal right to trace their grandchildren. It is easy to understand the emotional need for such reunions after the atrocities in Argentina.

    If we discuss law and not emotions, you could say that these children certainly have the right to inherit their grandparents, so should the grandparents not have the right to trace their heirs?

    • That’s a good point about them not being purely anonymous–they are known to the sperm bank. It does seem fair to say that it is about whether children have access to that information.

      At the same time, it’s worth noting that there is a difference (which may or may not be important) between a person who provides gametes believing his/her identity will never be revealed and one who does so understanding that it will be/might be. This distinction might not make a difference to folks, but when people become “anonymous” donors, I think they are assuming there will not be access.

      I’ll try to be more careful in language choice in the future.

      On your last point–as adoption usually functions, it severs the relationship between the adoptee and his/her original family. Thus, an adopted child would not inherit from the parents of the woman who gave birth from the child (unless specifically named in a will, I guess.) And the Nobles were adopted.

      But I feel like that’s sort of ducking the larger question. I don’t want to automatically say there should be reciprocity–the children can find the grandparents, then the grandparents should be able to find the children. But it seems like an independent claim by the grandparents might be made.

  2. “at least some of the children may may not want to know thier genetic lineage” which you youself say the article doesn’t discuss directly – as if a may not want to not discussed directly has any impact.

    Adoptees are coming of age “severs the relationship between the adoptee and thier biological family”

    Sanction severing your own family if you really find this acceptable. Do you?

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