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back to article Boots punts over-the-counter paternity test

Boots is offering an over-the-counter paternity test kit, to the delight of some and the horror of others. The chemist describes assuredna as "the first UK approved and regulated DNA paternity testing kit to be made available nationally via Boots". The test is "simple, safe and proven", processing and returning paternity results …

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Pirate

I foresee ructions from this one...

The one set of customers who would be most interested in this sort of thing are the one group who would benefit least, namely those ethnic groupings who favour close-cousin marriages. Some of these societies have rates of close relative marriages over 75%, and this custom has persisted for at least a thousand years (there's a passage in the Koran referring to it, with the comment that it is common knowledge then that first cousin marriages produces defective children), so the question with these societies is not how much harm the practise causes, but how on earth they've not succumbed to rampant inbreeding and genetic disease.

The only answer here is that whilst the close cousin marriage rate is over 75%, the percentage of breeding adults who are the product of these close cousin marriages must be much, much lower. Several factors will feed into this; quite often highly inbred people/animals are so genetically defective that the infant mortality rate is high, fertility rates fairly low (not least because genetic idiots aren't favoured as spouses) and of course there must be a fairly high adultery rate leading to quite a few "non-paternity" offspring. In a field of morons, out-bred non-paternity kids are going to shine; any interest in why this kid doesn't look like its father will be buried in the relief at finally producing a kid with a normal IQ.

All this will combine to produce families where little Mo, the clever one out of a family of knuckledraggers isn't actually the fruit of his father's loins at all, but rather the milkman's (or similar), and whereas in times past an unusually clever child would be valued as a familial asset, nowadays the suspicious daddy would get the DNA testing kit out, find out he wasn't the father at all and get rid of the kid somehow. Quite what this is going to do to these ethnic societies I leave to your imagination...

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Well...

As off-topic racist screeds go, that was very well constructed (a rare occurrence, I'm sure you'll admit). Top points for grammar, but an 'F' for generally being a dick, I'm afraid. "little Mo, the clever one out of a family of knuckledraggers"? Fucking hell.

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Pint

You're not talking about Irish Travellers, are you?

com'over here and say tha to my face

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Boffin

Could be...

Or maybe cousins really do have only a slightly elevated risk of birth defects, just as scientists always suspected.

But why let facts get in the way or your prejudice?

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Anonymous Coward

Do Boots know something we don't?

"The immediate justification, according to Boots, is the uncertainty on the part of some families about the paternity of their children. Every year in the UK the father’s name left blank on approximately 50,000 birth certificates."

... and there was I thinking the only reason Ed Milliband did get his name put on his partner's child's birth certificate was that he was "too busy".

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Joke

Time for an alternative ending in The Empire Strikes Back...

Darth Vader: ....I am your father.

Luke Skywalker: Lets go to Boots and find out

(some time later....)

Luke Skywalker: No... that's not true! That's impossible - hopefully this is the 0.01% that is wrong!

P.s. sure there is a joke icon, but I really needed a "terrible joke" icon...

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Joke

Re: Time for an alternative ending in The Empire Strikes Back...

Ever considered a career in advertising?

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Coat

Aaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh look

Mummy's little baby

Daddy's little maybe

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Statistics and Joe Public do not mix...

A back of envelope examination, taking from the article the data that 1 in 25 children have the "wrong" father and the 0.9999 accuracy rate of the test, I estimate the probability of a false positive (by which I mean the child has the "right" father but the test indicates otherwise) as being about 0.0096, or roughly one in a thousand.

That's actually not quite so horrific as I had feared, but still, it's unfortunate for the one child in a thousand who gets screwed over by this test.

I stand by to have my back-of-envelope analysis torn to shreds...

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Errata

"I estimate the probability of a false positive (by which I mean the child has the "right" father but the test indicates otherwise) as being about 0.0096, or roughly one in a thousand."

That should read 0.000096, or roughly one in ten thousand. Decimal point writing ineptitude, I'm afraid :(

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Silver badge

Not torn to shreds, but...

There's another problems here: 99.99% accuracy rate of the test doesn't mean anything. Is that the chance that the child is the guy's kid and the thing says no (false negative) or the chance that child isn't the guy's kid, and the thing says yes (false positive). When I did statistics at university, I distinctly remember that when making a test, false negative was the thing you control for, making it at n% signficance (normally 5%, 1%, 0.1%, etc.), and you have to hope that the Type II error rate isn't too horrific. Besides, is the null hypothesis that they are related, or that they aren't?

Also, it just says "in excess of 99.99%", which presumably means they tested it at the 0.01% significance level and it passed.

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Stats update!

Having gone even further, if the test comes back indicating that the chap you thought was your dad is not your dad, it will be correct roughly 99.7% of the time, which means that for every 333 or so tests that come back indicating he's not your dad, one of them will be fibbing and he actually IS your dad.

Unless sales are awfully low, I think we can pretty much guarantee there will be some unfortunate false positives out there.

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I took it to mean

I took it to mean that there is a 0.9999 probability that the test will give the correct answer (i.e. same chance of being wrong whether the correct answer is paternity or shenanigans), which is all we can really given the data available.

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The second part seems to have wandered off

There is an extended analysis in follow-up, which seems to have disappeared, but the crux of it is that the false positive rate is about 0.000096, or one in ten thousand.

The false negative rate is about 0.000004, which is about one in two hundred and fifty thousand.

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FAIL

Typo....

Unfortunate typo in my post:

"When I did statistics at university, I distinctly remember that when making a test, false negative was the thing you control for..."

Negative should read positive...

By the way, here is a nice example of a test to see if someone's male that I came up with:

If person is over 6ft, return yes, else return no.

The accuracy rate of this test is 99% (or so). Still, is it a good test? If you want a higher accuracy, make the acceptance height higher...

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@DavCrav

Where did you learn that 99% of men are over 6ft?

Anyone want to think about that for a moment, and realise what utter bollocks it is?

According to a quick search, about 14.5% of men in the US are over 6ft. In other parts of the world people are inclined to have different average heights. Not many far eastern men are so tall, for example.

I think you have the concept of accuracy horribly twisted, my friend.

Please. Never ever try to make any assertions about statistics again.

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@Your retarded

Accuracy = chance of making a type I error. You checked the wrong data. What you wanted was the percentage of people over 6ft that aren't men. My point was that without stating whether "accuracy" means Type-I, Type-II, or some amalgamated version of this. Without more information, "accuracy" is worthless.

"Anyone want to think about that for a moment, and realise what utter bollocks it is?"

Yes, of course it is. The Type-II error rate (false negative) is huge. But it is a very good test in one way, because almost everyone who passes is a man. This was my point. Saying "accuracy" is meaningless unless you define it. Otherwise the test if(person == Gordon Ramsey) then return male else return female is 100% accurate, or almost 0% accurate, depending on the definition of the word 'accurate'.

"Please. Never ever try to make any assertions about statistics again."

Ditto. But I can't chat for long, have to go deliver a mathematics lecture. Where I won't make any statistical assertions, I promise.

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FAIL

You have missed the point, and you can't even spell your insults

@Your Retarded

You've missed the point and got it backwards.

He said that 99% of (>6ft people) are men. Not 99% of men are (>6ft people).

Please. Never ever try to make any comments about logical inference again.

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Sexism!

"The test is available to anyone aged 16 or over and requires signed consent and identification documents from father, child and mother – and from the mother on behalf of the child if the latter is under 16."

Hang on... surely that's discrimination -- "parent or guardian", surely? Why mother specifically?

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Not certain, but

perhaps it's because the entire point of the test is to confirm who exactly the father is. If you're taking the test then there must be at least some doubt as to whether the 'father' involved is really the parent. I imagine it's more likely that the mother is known to be the parent.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sexism!

I wonder if this is misreported. I can't see why permission from the mother should be required. Suppose a 45-year-old man and a 65-year-old man both want to discover if one is the father of the other. Why should they need signed consent from the mother? What if they don't know who the mother is? (Perhaps the baby was abandoned, like one of Umberto Eco's ancestors.)

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@ indomitable gall

It's because the mother is guaranteed to have a legal right, if the bloke did it and it turns out he wasn't the father then he didn't have the legal right to sign consent.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Sexism!

You're so intent on crying sexism that you've forgotten how biology works, you dope. But full marks for enthusiasm.

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I'me pretty sure...

That the test itself does not change the legal rights of the "father" in question. If he has been the legal father of the child before (and has the right to give consent on behalf of the child), then he will still be, even if the test comes back negative. This, really, is as it should be; this test doesn't test for dad-ness, just genetic father-ness.

I suspect that what appears in the article is kind of a summary, since there are some obvious cases where the mother would not have legal right to give consent for the child (ie adopted children or cases where the father has been granted sole custody), and some of these cases are where this kind of test could be quite beneficial.

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Heart

Re : Sarah Bee

Sarah, the situation postulated could _conceivably_ happen.

A man who knows he was abandoned at birth could meet another, older, man carrying a similar physical trait to him self. i.e. birthmark etc.

"Is this man my father?" says younger man.

"Is this man my son?" says older man.

Get a DNA check says the man in Boots.

See, a possible situation, as described, and no sexism whatsoever.

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Anonymous Coward

Indeed

As I understand it, in English law, you are the legal father of your wife's children even if it is known that you are not the biological father, and even if your wife doesn't want you to be the legal father. She has to get divorced before the birth if she doesn't want her husband to have those legal rights. That's what I heard, anyway. Might be out of date, of course ...

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Grenade

Anti father sexism is heavily entrenched in Family Law

This is just one of many examples;

"You are the legal father of your wife's children even if it is known that you are not the biological father"

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Boffin

Huh?

A "kit", that you send off to a DNA testing lab anyway.

So Boots are selling some swabs and an envelope, is that it then?

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Anonymous Coward

Seems that way.

Personally I'd rather trust sending my "unwanted" gold in an envelope marked 'CASH FOR GOLD INC' than a swab with my dna and official documents with my personal details to some unknown lab.

/tinfoilhat.

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So it seems.

And for an eye-watering £29.99

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Unhappy

Oh No

My wife will finally be able to confirm her suspicions that she is not the mother of my child.....

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Coat

Sounds like Rincewind...

... who claimed that his mother ran away before he was born!

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FAIL

No Bootnote?

Missed a trick here

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Panic 'ut Mums' Net?

Women's groups have long campaigned against these tests - even to the extent of advising mums to hide the children's underwear when the "Ex" visits.

It's likely that a considerable bunch of dosh is currently being spent supporting the children of gentlemen that escaped the memory of the mother during divorce and maintenance discussions. Quelle surprise.

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WTF?

Age of consent

"The test is available to anyone aged 16 or over and requires signed consent and identification documents from father, child and mother – and from the mother on behalf of the child if the latter is under 16."

What if the mother is under 16, who gives consent then? Let's face it, with the Jeremy Kyle world we all live in, that's a very real possiblity

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Anonymous Coward

Biology

Its a bit rum only allowing the mother to consent for a child under 16.

If the child is the result of IVF with egg donation, the father will have a genetic link to the child but not the mother, so why should the mother have the final say on this?

There are other less difficult situations (genetically) involving surrogacy (depending on who the egg came from) and adoption, but it reinforces the view that fathers have less rights than responsibilities.

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Anonymous Coward

I'm happy with this.

It has been my experience that women will lie like crazy to 'trap' some man that they think will provide for them. Despite the fact that said woman will continue to have sex with a man she doesn't want as her partner.

Equally true, in my experience, is the fact that a huge number of men will screw any female that opens her legs. Spreading their seed around all over the place. Then that man will lie about the fact of his screwing, and parenthood of resultant offspring.

Lives have been blighted by the actions of both male and female liars. Here is an opportunity to obtain proof without the cost of court action, or the humiliation of going on the Jeremy Vine show.

Having an easy to use and 'cheap' (ish) method of proving the parentage of a child will be a boon to a lot of people. And for the false positives and negatives, there is always the option to redo the tests. Either with the same company or a different one. Thus reducing the chances that 'your' results are false.

My main concern throughout the whole story has been the extortionate cost of the test kits. These cannot cost more that £2 or £3 to produce.

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Pricing

Possibility: Maybe the high price of the tests is because they expect that, of the kits sold, many of them won't be sent off for analysis and so they won't see lab work profit on those sales. So they have to get a significant profit off the kits themselves.

I can certainly see people buying a kit in a fit of suspicion or rage and then not using it, either because they calm down, they're afraid to find out, the partner fessed up, or they couldn't get the consent of the partner. Or the user bought the kit and then realized they can't afford the remaining $100+ for lab work.

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Silver badge

Make sure you're present

All the way from the swab to the post-office so Chavelina can't swap your swab for the real parent's goop while your back's turned...

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Grenade

...and swabbing your own decks

... and unless the swabs are taken at the counter and the hapless Boots assistant checks that swab, person and ID correspond, who knows what could be dropped in the test tube - nothing to stop Mr, Mrs & Miss Fiddler from hiring themselves out to anyone who wants 3 random samples tested.

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WTF?

"has no real medical purpose"?

I'm surprised the author allowed Josephine Quintavalle to get away with "Boots should not be involved in this type of genetic testing which has no real medical purpose,"

Has neither of them ever been asked about their family medical history?

If these have any diagnostic value, the child could suffer when the true father's history is ignored and the presumed father's history treated as relevant.

Won't somebody think of the children ? (TM)

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Anonymous Coward

more of the same

As major promoters of the multi-billion dollar biz that is homeopathy Boots are hardly going to worry about being accused of "selling things with no real medical purpose".

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Stop

GATTACA

Enough said...

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Anonymous Coward

The mother has to sign, to give her a chance to ger her story together, and to phone the police.

I seem to recall a conversation in a pub where the government were said to have used Helena Kennedy at the HFEA to cover up the stats when they discovered first child paternity lie of (something like,) 7%, second of 13%, third of 22% and fourth of 26%, and an overall average of 14%.

Since families have over two kids per household, that's one in three men more or so, raising another child, and one in seven kids with the wrong dad. Bearing in mind the scarcity of female fertility, a few days a month, it means that half of them are at it.

At this point, I got my tin hat out, expecting follow up dicussions about the illuminati, the jews etc.

So I asked a retired friend who was once a county head nurse about it, and she said (I quote,) "It's certainly not true that one in three men is raising another man's child, because all the good looking ones are raising their own, and some particularly ugly, poor men, are raising more than one of someone else's. I know streets where I suspect none of the children to be the result of adultery, but of others I suspect the majority of children to be so."

So there it is, ugly, poor, and a wife who goes out drinking with her mates when she's ovulating, and you're screwed.

Of course, having three kids myself, my view is, I love them anyway. Even if they weren't mine, I see no reason to look it up, unless my wife leaves me for someone else. Besides, what can you do about it? Kill your wife? Hardly a productive response.

It would only be in the event of a divorce that I'd want to know.

It's been happening since the dawn of time, it's an evolutionary advantage for the less capable of women to be gold digging prostituting whores, and for the overly attractive and rich men to be bastard dogs. If you're worried about your own genes propogating, then ensure your sisters have affairs so they have lots of kids.

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Flame

This anti-testing faction is infuriating

It's MY DNA dammit, it's none of their business what I do with it or authorize someone to do with it. If I want to send it off to have someone estimate how closely related to Elvis I am, or check it for secret codes left by aliens, it's MY RIGHT. I've been using this DNA since before I was born. Meanwhile, if I'm not mistaken, DNA theft is still perpetrated by the police every day.

It reminds me of a situation where a university (Berkeley, I think) planned to solicit volunteers from their students for some kind of DNA survey. Only to find out that some stupid regulation would prohibit them from letting the volunteers see their own results. It's insane.

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Alert

why is there an age restriction on the kit?

pretty sure they're missing a potential market here.

according to most of the press 9 out of 10 pregnancies are to girls under 16yo.

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Joke

Very specifically targetted product

'assuredna'? That's all well and good for Edna, but what about the rest of us?

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