Friday, June 3, 2011

MissBehavior: Beware Of Mommy's Little Secret

What a man doesn't know can really hurt him. (HT

Let's get right to it. From

"They came to the hospital together, a husband, a wife and the little daughter they feared had been cursed by inheritance. Since birth, she had struggled to breathe, and all the signs pointed to cystic fibrosis.

If the girl truly had the incurable disease that clogs the lungs, she had to have received two copies of a CF gene, one from each parent. Tests at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto confirmed the family's worst fears -- and then some.

The girl was indeed afflicted. Her mom carried one of the culprit genes. But her dad, the doctors discovered, was quite a different story. His DNA showed no sign of a CF gene, which means he is not a carrier and he is not her dad.

Hospital staff have felt bound to keep the secret from him. But when they told the mom, it came as no surprise; it rarely does.

"It is probably true in a lot of families, that daddy is not who you think it is," says Steve Scherer, a senior scientist in department of genetics at the Hospital for Sick Children."

Where do we begin?? A woman has an affair, which results in an illegitimate child. Then the woman passes it off as her husband's. A classic case of paternity fraud. On top of that the hospital withholds that information in addition to him being a carrier. There's more:

"And as the staff at Hospital for Sick Children are learning, keeping secrets can backfire. In one case, a father who tested negative for a gene that his sick child had inherited wrongly believes himself to be both a carrier of a genetic disorder and the child's natural father.

Ms. Shuman said counsellors have never told him otherwise, even after his marriage broke up. But recently, he contacted the hospital again to say he has a new partner and wants to come in for further testing. He assumes that any child produced in his new relationship also may be at risk.

Telling him there is no risk would reveal the truth about his first child. Going ahead with the test denies him the truth about his own DNA.

Prof. Dickens suggests testing the new partner. If she turns out to be a non-carrier, there is no need of further discussion. But Ms. Shuman said that also may leave counsellors with some unwanted "moral residue."

"He hasn't come back in yet," she added, "but we may have to reveal the results . . . It all gets messier than you might think. Welcome to my ethically charged world."

This screams lawsuit in the making. Here's the kicker:

"The widespread use of DNA analysis has presented science and society with all sorts of new ethical problems, and now it's pulling this naked truth out of the closet and into the courtroom. Men who call themselves "Duped Dads" are looking for legal redress to protect themselves against paternity fraud, raising questions about the definition of fatherhood. Several U.S. states are considering legislation that could exempt non-biological fathers from having to pay child support.

Even the most learned among us are grappling with the implications. Last month, the 10-per-cent non-paternity rate was cited during a science seminar for judges in Halifax.

"The judges were just shocked; they really couldn't get over how many people this would affect," Dr. Scherer said. "They kept saying things about all those poor people who might be misled -- never realizing that one of them might actually be among them!"

The notion of a woman carrying the child of someone other than her partner is older than the Christmas story itself. No geneticist believes non-paternity to be purely the product of modern immorality; they have been tripping over the infidelities of earlier generations for decades.

Cheryl Shuman, director of genetic counselling at the Hospital for Sick Children, said that 15 years ago, when genetic tests were less powerful, researchers had to draw blood from a child, his or her parents and both sets of grandparents. "Sometimes we'd get a call from the grandmother, and she'd say, 'Listen, my son, or my daughter, doesn't know that their father is not their real father. . . .' "

In the interests of maintaining family peace, Ms. Shuman said, the tests would be dismissed as "uninformative."

Over the years, the hospital has relied on the advice of lawyers and ethicists to develop policies for handling the situation. For example, its consent form now warns what a genetic test can reveal. Parents "will sometimes giggle in the waiting room when they read the paragraph about non-paternity," Ms. Shuman said. "But then we get the phone call later, forewarning us as to what we might find."

When a test disqualifies a father, "most women do express some surprise, but then there is a resignation, or an acceptance that they were kind of half anticipating this was going to happen. But then all this is followed very quickly by panic and questions as to whether or not we will betray their confidentiality."

If the case involves an expectant mother, Ms. Shuman explained, the hospital's legal obligation is clear: The developing baby is considered part of the mother and the results of the tests therefore belong to her.

After birth, the course of action is less clear, she said, but lawyers advise that the child is to be considered the patient, whose needs trump those of the parents. Since telling the father could trigger a breakup and leave the child without proper support, the hospital keeps the secret. Sometimes it can be a whopper. "There is actually data from Britain," said sexual-behaviour expert Judith Lipton, "that suggests a woman may be more likely to conceive with a f partner because a woman can essentially develop antibodies against her regular partner's sperm, so that she may be more likely to be impregnated by fresh sperm."

Bottom line: It looks like the medical field, in many cases is helping women cover up their infidelity and illegitimate children. This can cause huge problems for doctors and their patients down the road. The "duped dads" phenomenon is very real. Based on what I've seen in the courts, they want to perpetuate it and keep the child support gravy train going. This supports inequality with regard to creating and raising children, which will deter more men from wanting any. Consider the myth of female monogamy debunked.

Background Intel: Mommy's little secret

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