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Paternity testing:

Straightforward answers to
important questions

What is identity (paternity) testing?
Identity testing determines the genetic identity of an individual.  Identity testing can be used to determine who is the father of a child, whether a baby was switched at birth, or that a baby conceived by advanced reproductive technologies is, in fact, the parents' child.  Identity testing can also be used to determine if twins are identical or fraternal.  Law enforcement agencies use identity testing to identify individuals who are victims of crimes or accidents, or perpetrators of rape and other crimes.

How is the testing performed?
Before modern DNA analysis became available, identity testing relied mainly on analysis of blood and HLA types.  These tests, which are still available, can be accurate.  However, compared to this older method, DNA-based testing is cheaper, easier to perform accurately, and feasible in nearly every situation.  Because the genetic variation tested by DNA-based methods is far greater than in blood and HLA types, testing can confirm or rule out paternity with accuracy often exceeding 99.99%.  Since DNA is present in every tissue and bodily fluid, and since DNA is quite stable, testing can be performed on small blood samples or tissue samples.

What should be considered prior to testing for paternity?
The result of paternity testing may not be the expected one, and it is important to remember that this may have economic and social consequences.  For instance, if the presumed father of the baby is not actually the father, he may not be required to support the child, and he would most certainly view the child differently than if he were the biologic father.  Geneticists use the term non paternity when the suspected and the biologic father are not the same.  Non paternity is estimated to be present in over 10% of individuals.  Non maternity is far rarer, since switching babies in hospitals is extremely uncommon.

We recommend that any couple thinking about identity testing for their child consider speaking first with a lawyer, in part because results of testing may become legal evidence.  Since the testing is so very accurate, it is nearly impossible to refute an unexpected paternity testing result.  Also, consulting with a health professional may be helpful, especially if that health professional has had a long standing relationship with the family.

How to get additional information on identity testing?
We offer genetic consultation for individuals or couples thinking about identity testing, and we will obtain the samples, arrange for the testing, and interpret the laboratory testing results.  However, since identity testing is not considered to be medical diagnostic testing, having the testing through our office or a doctor's office is not required.  Identity testing is typically NOT considered to be "medically necessary", and this means that virtually no insurance companies will pay for the testing.

Identity testing laboratories usually offer testing directly to interested individuals, in some cases requiring a doctor's order.  Points to consider before selecting a laboratory include the cost of testing, length of time for obtaining results, availability of a convenient way to collect the required DNA samples, and availability of professionals at the laboratory who can assist in interpreting results.  Most laboratories require payment in full prior to releasing results, and many require at least partial payment before accepting samples.  Testing a child, mother, and a father typically costs $100-500, and discounts from list price are commonly offered.  Prenatal testing, which would involve an amniocentesis to obtain DNA-containing cells from the unborn baby, entails additional laboratory costs, as well as the costs (which may or may not be covered by medical insurance) of the amniocentesis procedure.

Listed below are several identity testing laboratories which perform paternity testing.  The list below is not meant to be comprehensive, and comparison shopping is suggested.  In particular, make sure that a laboratory guarantees that it will do sufficient testing to ensure that the probability of paternity exceeds 99% or that is excluded with a greater than 99% probability.

New York State Approved Paternity Testing Laboratories; phone numbers and pricing* (as of February 2013)
BRT Laboratories (800) 765-5170 $276 / $399
DNA Diagnostics Center (800) 613-5768 $189 / $450** 
Fairfax Identity Labs (800) 735-9224 $145 / $400**
Genetica (800) 433-6848 $210 / $525
Identigene (888) 404-4363 $159 / $359
LabCorp (800) 742-3944 $___ / $525**
Paternity Test US (866) 434-2400 $99 / $400
Paternity Testing Corporation (877) 362-4222 $295 / $395

Disclaimer:  Our office has no affiliation, professional or economic, with any of the above laboratories.  This listing is solely for informative purposes, and The Genetics Center, Inc. is in no way responsible for consequences of identity testing through these or any other laboratories.

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