Sinead Ryan: Who's the Daddy? Well, maybe it's best you don't find out . . .
ANSWERS: As Boots release a home paternity testing kit, you have to wonder if such a quick fix is a good idea
Hot on the heels of Boots making the morning-after pill available in its Irish stores comes a potentially even more explosive and far reaching development from the High Street chemist.
'Who's the Daddy' kits are going on sale so sceptical fathers can check once and for all whether that little blonde-haired blue-eyed child is actually theirs.
They're not called that of course, but that's what they're for.
The chain is already stocking the 'AssureDNA' paternity testing kit in its larger branches in the UK -- but if you can't wait for them to arrive here, they're available over the internet priced at around Stg£30. It has made all the arrangements with a laboratory so that quality tests can be done.
It's an additional hefty Stg£129 for that, but Irish customers may well consider using it as similar testing here costs up to €600, although discounts are offered for the testing of "additional alleged fathers". Nobody knows how big the potential market might be, but it can't be long before Boots take the decision to provide the product in Irish shops too.
It's completely legal, 99.99pc accurate, but the results are considered 'unofficial' for court purposes.
Separate research in the UK and US suggests that one in 25 men is not the biological father of his child or children. No reason to think it's any different here.
In the States particularly, 31pc of men who undergo paternity testing -- which is routinely used in court cases for child maintenance orders -- discover they are not the father at all, saving them a few bob and quite possibly ruining their lives at the same time.
There has been a concerted effort here to get more fathers to put their names on birth certs. The Government is anxious that children at least know who their father is, and it allows mothers apply for money to help rear the child.
At present, unless the couple is married, paternity is not presumed. This can have all sorts of consequences apart from simply the right to know who fathered you, from inherited illness to, well, inheritances.
Consider any time an ad appears in a newspaper looking for 'heirs' to the fortune of an old geezer who popped his clogs with neither will nor descendants -- there's usually a flurry of people mad to get their hands on the lolly and drawing blood voluntarily to do so.
It's not that painful, though. A simple 'cheek swab' suffices, although the company says that those seeking the test must have consent of the other parent. But presumably there are fathers giving their child a quick suck of a Q-tip and saying 'Mum's the word' -- or perhaps Dad is -- and sending it off.
There are, for obvious, reasons, no statistics on how many fathers are raising children that are not their own, so there must be some trepidation about a quick'n'easy confirmation of niggling suspicions without actually having to sit down and have a conversation about it. The problem with such an instant approach is that the 'What then' isn't addressed.
So, you've been bringing little Johnny to football practice since he was old enough to walk and before that you changed his nappies, fed him his bottle and put up with the jokey comments about where he got his brown eyes from. You've never really questioned it before, but come to think of it, he doesn't resemble your side at all -- and his tantrums belie your easy going nature.
Now most people would leave it there, and may not carry the thought any further -- but if it was as simple as popping into your local chemist for a box with a swab in it, how many might be tempted to give it a go.
What then? You find out that after all, you're not Johnny's daddy. You've been called that since he was born and you love him with all your heart. He's your son, but he's not. How would any man feel and what is he supposed to do?
We're all in favour of the Truth these days, from WikiLeaks to government transparency, but as Jack Nicholson might say, what if you can't handle the truth?
Like all medical progress, just because it's possible doesn't make it desirable.