Ben Stacy is struggling with a rare genetic disease that turns his skin into a blue tinge. The man developed the disease as a result of an incestuous relationship between his ancestors. It should be emphasized that the consequences of such relationships can be much more serious, and therefore they are opposed by medicine and law. What are the health consequences of entering into a relationship with someone in your family? What kind of punishment can be faced by those who choose to engage in such a relationship? We talked about this with Ewelina Kamińska, an epigeneticist, PhD student at the Ludwig and Maximilian University in Munich and Dr. Maciej Zaleski, legal advisor.
Why are incestuous relationships dangerous?
Incestuous relationships are prohibited, but there are times when two closely related people mate. If from such a relationship a child will be born, the consequences can be dire. Recently, the media reported that a child who was born from a sister and brother relationship died in Uzbekistan. The boy had numerous genetic defects, including the so-called congenital ichthyosis. He lived only a few hours and – as doctors emphasize – his death was led by a close relationship between his parents.
Too close kinship may make the probability of passing on to future generations some very rare genetic conditions that have been present in a given family to be much higher. Ben Stacy, an American from Kentucky, found out about it. In the man’s family, as a result of an incestuous relationship between his ancestors, a genetic defect called methemoglobinemia. Thanks to it, the skin becomes slightly blue and the lips turn blue.
Although an incestuous relationship took place at the beginning of the 19th century, its effects are still felt by subsequent generations. The 47-year-old told the local media that he was born with a slightly blue skin. He added that when he was a small child and felt cold or upset about something, his the skin gently changed color. Fortunately, with age, the ailment subsided. Interestingly, the man’s children do not have such a problem.
What does medicine say about incest relationships?
Katarzyna Oleksik, Dziendobry.tvn.pl: Incestuous relationships are forbidden and dangerous. Because of him, the man in question is struggling with a rare disease and his skin turns blue.
Ewelina Kamińska, epigeneticist, PhD student at the Faculty of Organic Chemistry of the Ludwig and Maximilian University in Munich: A whole set of genes is responsible for the color of our skin – just like our eyes or hair. Whether it is a condition or any other, it can be inherited over many generations. However, it all depends on what gene is responsible for them and how it is inherited. Methaemoglobinaemia is inherited in an autosomal dominant fashion, so one copy of the parent’s mutant gene is enough to pass (phenotype) this trait to its offspring.
How does it look hereditary?
We have 23 pairs of chromosomes. We get each chromosome in a given pair from mum and dad. This means that we have two copies of each of them. This mixture is our genotype and it is what we are like. Some genes can be passed on to the next generation in a dominant way. Such a gene is, for example, the one that determines whether we have brown eyes. One copy is enough for a child to have brown eyes. In contrast, the genes responsible for blue eye color are inherited recessively. This means that a child will have blue eyes when he receives this gene from both parents.
In case of diseases, if someone receives, for example, one faulty gene from one of the parents, then he / she always has the second “healthy” copy from the other parent. It is able to replace the sick variant or take over its tasks. In a situation where people are very closely related to each other, the probability that the mutation occurs in them in the same place is much greater and it is not possible for a “healthy” gene to dominate or replace the damaged one. If closely related people connect, then we can inherit some defective genes twice.
What other health consequences do these relationships have?
Research shows that children with such relationships live shorter lives, and they struggle much more often mental and physical diseases. They are more prone to lethal defects and often die shortly after birth.
Additionally, if a woman becomes pregnant with someone closely related, the likelihood of spontaneous miscarriage is also much higher.
Why is genetic diversity and gene mixing so important?
If we want to grow, we have to mix genes together. Thanks to the mixing of genes, we are stronger, we adapt more easily, and this increases our chances of survival.
Incest relationships – how does the law view them?
From the point of view of the morality that is entrenched in many societies, incestuous relationships are unacceptable. Medicine also looks at them unfavorably. How does the law deal with them? Dr. Maciej Zaleski, attorney-at-law, in an interview with the Dziendobry.tvn.pl website, stated that this issue needs to be looked at in many aspects.
– Incest is classified as a sexual crime. The others include rape and pedophilia, as well as forced prostitution and the distribution of pornography. Criminalization of criminal acts may occur for one or more committed acts. A father who has intercourse with a daughter who is less than 15 years old commits not only incest, but also pedophilia. The latter offense is not subject to statute of limitations and the person who committed it will have such an annotation in the documents forever – explains the specialist.
In Polish criminal law, the basic division of offenses is made according to their importance. They are divided into those that are a crime or a crime. – For a misdemeanor (for example, damage to property), you can receive a large fine or be imprisoned for 3 years. The most serious type of crime is crime. It is punishable by a minimum of three years imprisonment or a more severe penalty. A crime is always murder, a coup d’état, but also counterfeiting money – emphasizes Dr. Maciej Zaleski.
Incest as classified in Art. 201 of the Criminal Code is a misdemeanor. – As a rule, it is committed by the partners between them there are ties of blood, but agreeing to this kind of intercourse – says the specialist.
Interestingly, the law provides punishment only when incest occurs in the first line of kinship. – That is, when the father has sexual intercourse with his daughter, brother with sister or grandfather with granddaughter. Incest is also said when one of the guardians has intercourse with the adopted child. In a situation where, for example, a woman has a child from her first marriage and enters into a new relationship with a man who also has children from another relationship, the relationship between the offspring of these two will be considered incest, even though they are not related to each other, the lawyer emphasizes. Thus, in accordance with the law in force in Poland, e.g. marriage between cousins – although socially unacceptable – is absolutely legal and such people can easily get married in civil law. – This line is consistently maintained in Polish criminal law. Even before the Second World War, the legislator did not restrictively enforce the penal provisions regarding incest – our interlocutor points out.
Canon law views this issue completely differently. – It does not allow marriage if there is any doubt whether the parties are related to any degree in a straight line or in the second degree of the lateral line (in this respect, there is an absolute prohibition of dispensations). In the case of kinship in the third or fourth degree of the lateral line, a dispensation from the curia is necessary to contract marriage – adds the legal advisor. While it may seem that such a “light” approach to incest is due to the fact that such relationships are marginal and extremely rare, unfortunately the truth is quite different. – He is currently in Poland over 2,000 inmates sentenced to a final judgment for sexual offensesAlthough not all of them are incest offenses, incest cases are undoubtedly not isolated, and the courts meet them extremely often – admits Dr. Maciej Zaleski.
Source From: Dziendobry