<- Home <- Arhive <- Vol. 29, Issue 1, March 2021



Rom J Leg Med29(1)109-117(2021)
DOI:10.4323/rjlm.2021.109
© Romanian Society of Legal Medicine


DNA PHENOTYPING IN FORENSIC INVESTIGATIONS: RESULTS FROM A SURVEY IN THE REPUBLIC OF SERBIA

S. Teodorović


Abstract: DNA phenotyping aims to predict human observable physical and biochemical characteristics, age, biogeographic ancestry, internal characteristics and even behavior and lifestyle habits, using a set of techniques often reliant on single nucleotide polymorphisms and epigenetic markers. Forensic DNA phenotyping specifically intends to provide intelligence information to the law enforcement, with an idea of estimating different traits from unknown biological material uncovered during criminal and missing persons investigations. This promising and exciting approach is burdened by the consequences of technical errors, ethical issues (stigmatization, infringement of human rights, freedoms and individual privacies), as well as a lack of regulations and safeguards, thus stirring substantial scientific debate in the recent years. Given its impact on the entire society, the goal of this work is to stimulate a discussion with the public regarding forensic DNA phenotyping, by examining opinions among two distinct groups of citizens in the Republic of Serbia – lay public and senior students majoring in criminalistics and forensic sciences (future professional beneficiaries). Results demonstrate general acceptance of visible trait, age and ancestry prediction for forensic purposes, particularly for solving more serious crimes against life and limb, as well as sexual offences. Stronger overall support, contrasted with concerns regarding errors resulting from these probabilistic approaches, was particularly evident in the soon-to-be professional stakeholder category. I discuss the impact of these findings - the first from the Southeast Europe – which not only expand the international body of knowledge on the topic, but also contribute to developing operational and legal frameworks for responsible use and management of sensitive DNA data.
Keywords: forensic phenotyping, DNA database, EVC, discrimination, public opinion



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