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Law versus Medical Science: Competition between Legal and Biological Paternity in an Egyptian Civil Court

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The 1942 lawsuit that is translated, annotated and analyzed in this article raises questions about the judicial acceptability of new types of evidence developed by modern science. A husband who suspected that his wife was carrying the child of her lover asked the ahlī court of summary justice in Alexandria to determine the identity of the child's biological father by means of a blood-group test. The judge's refusal to comply with the request, on the grounds that he lacked jurisdiction, reflects a decision by Egyptian legislators and judges to leave the establishment of paternity to evidentiary rules that are shaped by cultural values about marriage, legitimacy and morality. These values do not always favor decision-making based on the full range of scientifically available facts.

Affiliations: 1: Dept. of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, The Hebrew University, Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem 91905, Israel;, Email:


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