Judge sanctions DNA testing on dementia sufferer thought to have fathered children

Specialists have been given the go-ahead to swab the mouth of an elderly dementia sufferer so DNA tests can be carried out in a bid to establish whether he fathered two sons and a daughter.

A judge in a specialist court has ruled that “cell samples” can be taken from the man, who is in his 70s and lives in a nursing home in the north of England, and subjected to testing.

Mr Justice Hayden made a ruling on Friday after analysing the case in the Court of Protection, where issues relating to people who lack the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves are considered, in London.

The judge was told that the pensioner had “very severe dementia” and could not communicate “in any way”.

Medics thought he would die within the next 12 months.

The judge said the man could not be identified in media reports.

A lawyer who manages the pensioner’s affairs had asked the judge to allow swabs to be taken.

The judge concluded that such moves would be in the pensioner’s best interests.

He said there was a “colourful life” bubbling below the case.

The judge said people who had the mental capacity to make decisions could take secrets to the grave.

He said the case had caused him to consider whether people with mental health difficulties, who did not have the capacity to make decisions, could do the same.

The three people thought the pensioner was their father and, the judge said, there was evidence that the man had wanted to know the answer when he had the capacity to make decisions.

Mr Justice Hayden said he would give details of the reasoning behind his decision in a written ruling in the near future.

Lawyers say the case is one of the first of its kind.

The judge heard argument from a barrister representing the lawyer who manages the pensioner’s affairs, and from a barrister representing the interests of the pensioner.

Both argued that swabs should be taken so DNA tests could be carried out.

Lucie Wood, who represented the lawyer who manages the pensioner’s affairs, said there were financial implications for the two men and the woman thought to be the pensioner’s children.

She said there was ongoing litigation, relating to a piece of land, involving the pensioner.

Ms Wood said if the three people were the pensioner’s children they would have a “considerable interest” in that litigation.

The pensioner had been helped by staff from the office of the Official Solicitor, who support mentally-ill people embroiled in litigation.

They had instructed David Rees QC to represent the pensioner.

Mr Rees said there was a “strong interest” in the two men and the woman having certainty about their relationship with the pensioner.

He said there was evidence that the pensioner had wanted to know the answer before becoming ill.

Mr Rees also said “establishing the relationship” might avoid a “post-death” dispute over the pensioner’s estate, which was thought to be worth at least £50,000.

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