High Court Sanctions DNA Paternity Testing of Dementia Sufferer

The law is the ultimate guardian of vulnerable people who lack the capacity to make important decisions for themselves. The High Court performed that role in ruling that it was in a dementia sufferer's best interests to undergo DNA paternity testing.

The man, aged 76, was resident in a nursing home where he had been placed on an end of life pathway. Although his physical condition was stable, he suffered from end-stage dementia and the evidence that he lacked capacity was compelling. A solicitor who had been appointed to act as his property and affairs deputy applied to the Court for an order sanctioning DNA tests with a view to establishing conclusively whether he was the father of three adults: two men and a woman.

In granting the application, the Court noted that previous testing had established a high probability, but no certainty, that he was the father of all three. Although there were indications that he had not always led a blameless life, the Court was satisfied that, were he able to express his wishes, he would take the responsible and mature course of consenting to the tests.

They would be minimally intrusive, and establishing whether or not he was the father of the three would be likely to foster affectionate memories of him on their part. The Court was required to focus on the man's best interests, but the human right of his putative children to respect for their family lives was also a persuasive factor. It was to be hoped that the test results would also serve to eliminate, or at least reduce, the risk of a dispute developing in relation to the division of his estate.

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