Credibility of DNA test questionable

Date: 3 OCTOBER 2009

Press Statement

Parti  Keadilan Rakyat Vice President and member of Parliament Gopeng, Dr Lee Boon Chye expressed shock and disbelief that DNA sample detected on Teoh Beng Hock’s clothes contained contamination from a deceased male by the name of Gopala Muniam who underwent post-mortem earlier on the same day. The result was revealed on 2nd Oct 2009 by forensics expert Dr Seah Lay Hong during the inquest of Teoh Beng Hock’s death.

This revelation exposed the shoddiness of the post-mortem on Teoh Beng Hock as well as the way DNA sample was obtained. There was no proper precaution by those involved in preventing contamination. You may imagine the potential disastrous and misleading conclusion being drawn if the contamination were to come from another living individual.

In fact this incidence further exposed the fact that the credibility of DNA testing is as good as and not better than the credibility of the sample as well as credibility of those individuals involved in the test. Any breach of duty of those involve will render the result of the DNA analysis useless. These individuals include 1) the investigating officers who collect the sample,   2) the officers involved in sealing and transporting the specimen to the DNA laboratory, 3) those involve in performing the DNA testing and 4) The police officer who heads the DNA Databank.

Hence the DEOXYRIBONUCLEIC ACID (DNA) IDENTIFICATION ACT 2008 which was passed in the parliament recently despite objection by all Pakatan Rakyat MPs had obvious flaws.

The Clause 9 of the DNA Identification Act 2008 empowers the Head of DNA Databank to rectify the particulars in the DNA profiles and any other information if a clerical error has occurred. Clause 24 states that the information contained in the DNA Databank shall be conclusive proof of the DNA identification in any proceedings in any court. The result therefore cannot be challenged in court.

The unchecked power given to the Head of DNA Databank, who is a police officer appointed by the minister, in determining the result of DNA testing and the result cannot be challenged in court obviously has not taken into account of the fallibility of the DNA technology due to human factor in the real world.

Dr Lee Boon Chye, who is also a practicing medical specialist, demands that

1. The Health Minister to take necessary action with regards to proper procedure in carry out post-mortem as well as proper ways collecting samples for DNA testing to prevent similar mistake from repeating and

2. The Home Affairs Minister to repeal clause 24 in the DNA Identification Act 2008 during the Oct-Dec 2009 Parliament session, so that the result of the DNA test can be subjected to scrutiny in court.

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