DNA testing is becoming used more frequently by people to help in critical situations that can change their lives. In cases of missing children, urgent medical care needs, body identification or legal verification, DNA can help solve the issue.
But waiting until an emergency to collect, transport and examine DNA samples can make handling difficult situations even more stressful, and in some cases, tragic. This is why DNA banking, or storing DNA samples for future use, is now becoming more common and affordable for consumers.
But how do you know when you might need a DNA sample? Understanding the process for banking your genetic material will help you make the right decision about taking this important step. Doing so will help to protect yourself and your assets, and preserve the safety of your loved ones.
What is DNA Banking?
DNA banking is the secure collection, transport, examination and storage of an individual’s genetic material. For generally under a price of $100 for one person, DNA banking can ensure that your genetic material is correctly collected, stored and available for future use in the event of an emergency or other pressing need. The laws regarding DNA banking will undoubtedly continue to evolve as the practice becomes more common, but if you ever become uncomfortable with the security of your banked DNA, you can have it destroyed.
Why Save Genetic Material?
There are four common reasons for consumers to collect and save their DNA.
#1 Proving Guilt or Innocence
Having your DNA sample available can help prove your innocence if you’re ever accused of a crime. If you’re in custody, you might not trust a law enforcement agency to properly test and analyze your DNA to prove your guilt or innocence. Having control of your genetic material can allow you to submit DNA for qualified examination.
#2 Better Medical Care
If your doctor is stumped at what is causing an illness in your or a family member, genetic testing can provide answers a medical professional otherwise couldn’t find. Based on your ethnic heritage, you might be more susceptible to certain diseases and conditions. For example, South African Ashkenazi Jews, Lebanese and French Canadians have a high risk for familial hypercholesterolemia, a genetic disease unfamiliar to many doctors, but which can lead to early heart attacks and death. Not only can DNA banking help doctors treat you, but you can help your children, grandchildren and other future generations by leaving a DNA sample for them.
#3 Making a Legal Case
Proving the parentage of a child can be difficult without DNA, leading to inheritance, custody, immigration and child support issues. Banking the DNA samples of children and parents using a court-approved DNA bank can help settle important and costly disputes quickly and correctly.
#4 Identifying Remains
When a loved one may be dead, asking a relative to submit a DNA to help identify remains, or asking someone to collect hair from a brush or other genetic material from a potentially deceased friend or family member’s belongings can be horribly traumatic. Having DNA samples available makes the process of identifying remains less intrusive and painful.
DNA Banking Process
Providing a DNA sample is an easy procedure that starts with gently rubbing the inside of your cheek with a swab or spitting into a laboratory vial. The person who collects the sample should be legally approved to transport the sample if you are making an offsite donation. If the chain of custody is followed correctly, an authorized lab examines your sample and certifies that it has come from you. It’s then stored safely for a pre-determined period, based on the service you select. You can also receive a profile of your DNA.
Part of the process includes your authorization regarding who may retrieve your DNA in the future and what it may be used for. You will receive a certificate proving that your sample is in storage at a specific location in the event you or an authorized person needs to retrieve your sample.
Are There any Downsides?
DNA banking is a safe, effective way to ensure the peace of mind for you and your family for years and generations to come. One of the only downsides to saving your genetic material is that someone you might not want to have access to it might obtain your sample. If a law enforcement agency gets access to your DNA, for example, it might not exhaust all other means to find evidence during the investigation of a crime, instead primarily relying on your DNA sample as proof of your guilt.