What’s one of the most important gifts you can give your family? For Julie Evans, with Sands Funeral Chapel, Cremation and Reception Centre in Colwood, it’s not necessarily money or property, but knowledge.
In particular, it’s the ability to discover through DNA collection and testing the potential health risks family members might face after we’re gone.
As an older mom of a young daughter, Evans realizes she may never meet her grandchildren and so appreciates being able to share the information with future generations.
“I can possibly save the lives of my family members down the line. If my daughter ever needs the information my DNA holds, and it could save her life or her children’s lives, I want to give her this gift,” says Evans, who with Sands and Vancouver-based SecuriGene, offers DNA collection from loved ones who have passed, before embalming or cremation.
Innovations improve access to technology
While Canadian-led advancements have made collection and long-term storage of DNA – your genetic material – more commonplace, many don’t think about it unless there’s a known health risk or paternity issue.
“The ability to collect samples and to keep it at home at room temperature has changed who has access to banking their family’s DNA,” Evans says.
“It also opens the door for personalized medicine,” Evans notes. In some situations, testing could help determine which treatments will be most effective for an individual, for example, or which would not work.
How it works
The collected sample contains cells and a full set of genetic information in the form of DNA. This “genetic blueprint” contains information about a person’s ancestry, health conditions and traits.
Samples, sent securely to SecuriGene for processing, are tracked every step of the way to ensure there’s no room for error.
At the laboratory, DNA is extracted from the cell, purified, concentrated and preserved for long-term, room-temperature storage. Preserved DNA will not degrade over time and will be readily available for future genetic testing.
Beyond genetic testing for potential health concerns, samples are also suitable for kinship testing, paternity testing, forensic medical testing and court-admissible testing.
Start the discussion
“Our role is to listen, to educate, to guide, and to offer options to the families we serve after a death has occurred,” says Evans. “Interest is growing as people become more aware how readily available DNA collection and at-home storage is. It’s an important conversation we have to ensure families are aware of the option.”
For those pre-planning and pre-paying for their funeral arrangements, the costs of collection, preparation and shipping can also be included, Evans says, If desired, Sands staff can also collect samples from living family members, or they can order tests directly from SecuriGene.