Thursday, June 16, 2005

Paternity Fraud


Last night I had the privilege of attending a Heart of Philosophy cafe, whose speaker Dr Leslie Cannold was addressing the issue of paternity fraud. The discussion was fascinating, and I couldn't possibly cover the issue as well as her hour-long presentation, and subsequent hour-long Q and A session managed to do.

However, I must say I got a new perspective on these issues, which included a fascinating presentation of the latest research, much of which is being still actively prepared, and which also repudiates much accepted wisdom.

So, what is paternity fraud? Simply put : situations where, in the eyes of the law, the legal status of "parent" is mis-attributed. This can be due to a whole barrel-full of emotionally charged reasons, ranging from privacy issues surrounding IVF babies, to secretive liaisons between adultrous partners. Simple genetic identification is only the simplest issue in this web of responsibility and intrigue.

In Australia, law is currently undergoing a shift towards a genetic emphasis on fatherhood. Additionally, supervisory bodies are being given increasingly invasive powers to assert the rule of law in these cases, including direct removal of funds without approval from individual's bank account. In what I suspect is an economically rather than morally motivated move, the responsibilities of parenthood are being coldly enforced.

Advocates on all sides of this multi-faceted arena are complaining. These complaints revolve around the normative view of the nuclear family, respect for the social father, issues of multiple social fathers, access rights and their possible linkage to economic responsibilities, fear, uncertainty and doubt.

I can only recommend further investigating these issues for yourself. Leslie Cannold was able to give us a marvelous one-minute-manager description of the issues, which as one might expect raised some spirited discussion. It was marvellous to see. If only John Howard had been there!



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