Accepted Paper:

Assembling and disassembling ethical controversies of familial searching: the cases of the UK and Poland  


Rafaela Granja (University of Minho)
Helena Machado (University of Minho)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the uses of familial searching both for criminal investigation and for civil identification purposes. Drawing on the cases of UK and Poland we use the concept of (dis)assembling ethical controversies to understand the the multiple socially legitimate uses of genetic technologies.

Paper long abstract:

Familial searching is a technology that detects genetic relatedness. The term is generally used to refer to searches conducted in criminal DNA databases to identify criminal suspects through their connection with relatives. Beyond criminal investigation purposes, familial searching might also be used for the identification of unknown bodies and missing persons. The UK and Poland are illustrative cases of the mutability of meanings, uses and regulations attributed to familial searching. In the UK, familial searching is regulated by exceptionality and is mainly used for the identification of suspects in serious criminal cases. In Poland, familial searching is regulated within the framework of expanding the scope of its application in civil identification, particularly in identifying missing persons and in supporting the restitution of the rights of victims of the Communist and Nazi totalitarian regimes.

Drawing on interviews with diverse stakeholders in the UK and Poland, we use the concept of assembling and disassembling ethical controversies to understand how familial searching displays multiple, fragmented notions of the socially legitimate uses of genetic technologies. We also outline how familial searching prescribes particular notions of social risk, public good, and state accountability and deals with different moral economies and power relations.

Panel C01
Genetic technologies: intersecting criminal investigation, disaster victim identification and commercial uses