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Can I Do A Paternity Test If The Alleged Father Is Dead?

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 1:26 PM
Wednesday, June 3, 2009

By Mark Webster

DNA testing is the most reliable way of confirming the biological relationship between two individuals. The most widely applied test is the DNA Paternity test whereby an alleged father is tested to confirm whether he is the biological father of a child or not. The test is relatively straightforward to do and involves rubbing oral swabs on the inside of the mouth and submitting it to the laboratory for analysis.

However, there are situations where the alleged father is not available for testing because he has passed away. Many think that in such circumstances there is no solution to this problem and the paternity can never be established conclusively.

In reality, there are a number of options possible for confirming the identity of the father. One of them is through DNA Relationship Testing, which is similar to DNA Paternity Testing but involves testing close members of the family to confirm various types of relationships. Tests can be performed between siblings, uncle/aunt and niece/nephew and grandparents. These tests are beyond the scope of this article but are worth exploring as an option where the father is not available for testing.

In case of death, we will explore three separate scenarios and what the client needs to do in these situations:

Case 1: If the person has just died and it is still possible to obtain biological material from the body (usually this period is not more than one week from time of death), it is recommended that the Client tries to obtain (where possible) oral samples, fingernail or toenail cuttings as well as hair with root samples. A technically qualified laboratory should be able to extract DNA from these samples and use the DNA to perform the paternity comparison.  In some instances a medical examination or autopsy of the person was conducted and the Medical Examiner’s Office or Coroner’s Office will still have samples up to a year after death.

Case 2: In the event that the body has already been buried, samples may be obtained in an indirect manner – for example through a toothbrush, comb (might contain useful hairs), dentures or recently smoked cigarettes. These samples are all likely to contain DNA material that can be used to preform the test.  However, success in obtaining DNA from such samples depend on a number of factors most importantly the condition of the sample and how much DNA it contains (e.g. a fully smoked cigarettes vs a relatively unused one.)

Case 3: In cases where the body has been buried for a number of years, and the samples available are skeletal remains, it is recommend that a bone fragment from the shaft of the femur and/or the humerus weighing approximately 2 grams and/or two teeth per individual are obtained.

The above are some of the options available. The most important element is to be able to obtain a sample from the deceased person that may contain DNA. Of course the costs and difficulties in obtaining a sample in Case 3 (e.g. body will require exhumation) are relatively higher than simply obtaining some hair or fingernails from the body. However, each case has its own specifics and one is always advised to seek advice from an expert in this field (e.g. forensic pathologist) or the company that will be used to do the testing.

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2 Responses to “Can I Do A Paternity Test If The Alleged Father Is Dead?”

  1. Dominque Crans says:

    Amazing site, exactly where did you get the template?

  2. admin says:

    Hello Dominque,

    I have asked around and we are not sure where we got the template. If I find out I will let you know. I am glad that you like it.


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