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(Family Division, Baker J, 25 April 2013)
The two children, aged 3 and 2, were the subject of care proceedings due to the turbulent relationship between the mother and father which was characterised by drug use and domestic violence. The parents separated and the mother obtained non-molestation and occupation orders against the father but a parenting assessment carried out by the local authority concluded that the mother lacked insight into her problems and concerns about the children. She did not have capacity to care for them. Interim care orders were granted and the children were placed in foster care. The local authority care plan was for adoption of both children.
During proceedings the father informed the local authority that his mother and brother suffered from Huntingdon's Disease and that he suspected he did too. The issue was transferred to the High Court for a determination as to whether the welfare of the children required genetic testing to establish if they carried the gene for HD.
The local authority supported the immediate testing of the children due to the likely difficulties in finding prospective adopters without the test results. All other parties to the proceedings were against testing being carried out.
Balancing all of the factors together it was not in the children's interests to carry out testing. There was no conclusive medical evidence of a diagnosis of HD in the father's family. The risk identified by the consensus of medical opinion of emotional and psychological harm if one or both of them had the gene outweighed the risk of harm arising from the likelihood that it would be harder to identify an adoptive placement if both or one child were carriers of the gene.
Each case of this nature would turn on its own facts. The decision in the instant case involved an untreatable condition that was unlikely to develop until mid-adult life but cases involving conditions developing during childhood, which were susceptible to treatment during childhood, would involve a very different balancing exercise.
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