Any scientific test which results in information that may lead to the loss of liberty for an individual accused of a crime needs to be performed with utmost care. DNA typing is no exception. It is a multi-step, technical process that needs to be performed by qualified and effectively trained personnel to ensure that accurate results are obtained and interpreted correctly. When the process is conducted properly, DNA testing is a capable investigative tool for the law enforcement community with results that stand up to legal scrutiny in court. When laboratories do not follow validated protocols, problems can arise (see D.N.A. Box 16.1).
Two topics are commonly referred to when discussing the importance of maintaining good laboratory practices to obtain accurate scientific results: quality assurance and quality control. Quality assurance (QA) refers to those planned or systematic actions necessary to provide adequate confidence that a product or service will satisfy given requirements for quality. Quality control (QC), on the other hand, usually refers to the day-to-day operational techniques and the activities used to fulfill requirements of quality.
Thus, an organization plans QA measures and performs QC activities in the laboratory. The forensic DNA community has long recognized the importance of quality control and since early in the development of forensic DNA technology, has established organizations to recommend and oversee quality assurance guidelines and quality control measures.
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