Genetic Testing — Be Careful What You Wish For

Imagine sending a DNA sample to a testing site like AncestryDNA or 23andMe, and then being told your brother is only your half brother?  What would that do to your world?

Unfortunately, this is happening more often than anyone realizes.  And the burden is falling on the testing labs’ customer-service representatives  to try to help the recipient of the test results make sense of it all.

These unforeseen outcomes are chronicled in the article “Surprise DNA Results Turning Customer Reps Into Therapists” by Kristen V. Brown from Bloomberg News.  The article quotes Kent Hillyer, head of customer care at 23andMe, as saying, “How most of those conversations start is people come to us to verify the accuracy.  Somebody had known something their whole life and then this company is telling them something different.  It’s tough.”  Those calls are so frequent the company has included preparing from them into its training program.  And after a particularly intense call, Hillyer encourages his representatives to go for a walk or open a bottle of wine.

Things also get intense for content moderators at social media sites who have to deal with very disturbing posts.  One moderator has filed suit against Facebook for inadequate protection from the mental trauma of screening objectionable images.

If you are unfortunate enough to suffer a shock about your ancestry, there are now other avenues than unburdening to a customer-service rep.  One outlet is a Facebook group called DNA NPE Friends (NPE stands for “not parent expected”).  It was founded by a woman who discovered that she and her brother had different fathers.  At last count it had over 4000 members and has spawned similar groups.

So before you send in that saliva sample for DNA testing, make sure you can deal with the results — whatever they may be.

The complete article can be found at https://www.pressreader.com/usa/the-atlanta-journal-constitution/20181223/281672551055265 .

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