Wednesday, November 18, 2015


The thorny legal problem Bert Gropes faces in the The Hot Monkey Love Trial – whether he’s a person who can be prosecuted or a mere thing that can’t be prosecuted, like a monkey or a humonkey – I’m telling you isn’t so farfetched.

It was reported that a mother, Lydia Fairchild, found out that DNA tests indisputably proved that her children were not hers, not only disqualifying her from receiving welfare but proving she’d committed a crime in fraudulently receiving prior welfare payments. When she had a third child, law enforcement was there at the hospital to take additional genetic samples to support the case against her. The father was indeed the father, but the DNA again proved that she was not the mother, strongly suggesting she was engaged in some kind of clandestine surrogacy that made little sense. 

A lawyer took on her case in the face of overwhelming genetic evidence against her. The answer was eventually found in the New England Journal of Medicine. There it was reported that a woman could not find a match in her own family for a kidney transplant because her DNA did not match her siblings, and it was discovered her own children must not have been her own. In that case the doctors persisted by taking samples from different parts of the body, resulting in the same conclusion. Eventually they tested tissue of the patient from a removed thyroid and – bingo! – the DNA matched her siblings and children.

This condition of having different genetic profiles from different parts of the body is a type of chimerism, conjuring up the original meaning of the word where two different species have been welded together. Here, however two human genetic profiles have been fused together.
Although mild forms of chimerism can result from transfusions, transplantations, and natural genetic inheritance, the cases like Lydia Fairchild are called tetragametic chimerism. That’s tetra, as in four. Instead of two cells – one egg and one sperm – forming a zygote, a tetragametic zygote is formed from two eggs and two cells that form one zygote instead of simply forming twins. 

The upshot of tetragametic chimerism – where four cells fuse into one zygote embodying two distinctly different genetic profiles – is that a criminal suspect can be wrongly accused, or exculpated when actually guilty, or accused twice based on two different genetic tests. But, under double jeopardy, an accused can only be tried once even if the other “person” lurking in his genes has only now been identified.