The huge potential of biobanks/genetic databases for the research community has been recognised across jurisdictions in both publicly funded and commercial sectors. But although there is tremendous potential there are likewise potential difficulties. The long-term storage of personal health information and samples poses major challenges. This is an area is fraught with ethical and legal uncertainties. Biobanks raise many questions of the control of rights, of consent, of privacy and confidentiality and of property in human material. It is (...) thus unsurprising then that there has been a lively debate as to how biobanks should operate, the boundaries of participation and what governance structure, if any they should adopt, a debate which has been engaged in across the academic community and by funders and researchers alike. This paper asks despite the good intentions can ad hoc ethics and ethics and governance committees long term provide an effective solution to the legal and regulatory challenges arising from biobanks. (shrink)
Together with large biobanks of human samples, medical registries with aggregated data from many clinical centers are vital parts of an infrastructure for maintaining high standards of quality with regard to medical diagnosis and treatment. The rapid development in personalized medicine and pharmaco-genomics only underscores the future need for these infrastructures. However, registries and biobanks have been criticized as constituting great risks to individual privacy. In this article, I suggest that quality with regard to diagnosis and treatment is (...) an inherent, morally normative requirement of health care, and argue that quality concerns in this sense may be balanced with privacy concerns. (shrink)
We argue that, in the case of research biobanks, there is a need to replace the currently used informed consent with trusted consent. Accordingly, we introduce a proposal for the structure of the latter. Further, we discuss some of the issues that can be addressed effectively through our proposal. In particular, we illustrate: i) which research should be authorized by donors; ii) how to regulate access to information; iii) the fundamental role played by a Third Party Authority in assuring (...) compliance with the reciprocal expectations and obligations of donors and scientists. Finally, we briefly analyse two issues that might represent important elements of a ‘new alliance’ between researchers and donors to which the trusted consent could pave the way: i) the correlations between needs and rights of the two parties, and ii) possible economic transactions. (shrink)
Modern biobanks typically rely on the public to freely donate genetic data, undergo physical measurements and tests, allow access to medical records and give other personal information by questionnaire or interview. Given the demands on participants it is not surprising that there has been extensive public consultation even before biobanks in the UK and elsewhere began to recruit. This paper considers the different ways in which biobanks have attempted to engage and appeal to their publics and the (...) reaction of potential and actual donors. Whilst those organising biobanks presumably want to be as close to their publics as they need to be in order to successfully recruit and sustain participation in sufficient numbers, the closer the relationship the more obligations and expectations there are on both sides. (shrink)
Biobanks are potential goldmines for genomics research. They have become increasingly common as a means to determine the relationship between lifestyle, environmental exposures and predisposition to genetic disease. More and more countries are developing massive national scale biobanks, including Iceland, the UK and Estonia. Now several large-scale regional and national biobanks are planned in China, such as Shanghai Biobank, which is defined as a key-element in Shanghai's twelfth five-year Development Plan of Science and Technology. It is imperative (...) that the authors who are in charge of the ethical aspect of Shanghai Biobank discuss the ethical aspects of these biobanks up front. Currently there is a great deal of heterogeneity in the approaches to informed consent taken by different countries. In the article, after briefly introducing the biobanks in China, we focus on the three most common approaches: classical informed consent, tiered consent, and one-time general (or blanket) consent, and propose a version of the latter for China, based on compelling arguments. (shrink)
This paper discusses the legal implications of setting up two new biobanks in Belgium. The first is hospital-based and will archive tissue from patients with haematologic cancer, whereas the second is linked to a general practice based morbidity registry and will involve storage of blood samples. To date, Belgium has no specific legislation that regulates storage of human tissue and related databases. Several issues concerning the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal medical data are discussed (...) from the existing privacy legislation. We will address the principle of consent (broad versus specific) and the type of data recorded (anonymous, encoded and identifiable) for both biobanks. (shrink)
Biobanks for long-term research pose challenges to the legal and ethical validity of consent to participate. Different models of consent have been proposed to answer some of these challenges. This paper contributes to this discussion by considering the meaning and value of consent to participants in biobanks. Empirical data from a qualitative study is used to provide a participant view of the consent process and to demonstrate that, despite limited understanding of the research, consent provides the research participants (...) with some level of control and a form of self determination that they value. Participation is framed as a moral act of a responsible citizen providing reinforcement of self identity. Consent symbolizes the trust invested in researchers and research institutions to use the biobank for the public good. The paper argues that consent continues to play an important role in biobank participation and that a participant view should inform proposals to modify consent processes. (shrink)
Margaret Sleeboom-Faulkner, ed. 2008. Human genetic biobanks in Asia: Politics of trust and scientific advancement Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11673-010-9234-6 Authors Darryl Macer, UNESCO Bangkok Regional Adviser in Social and Human Sciences for Asia and the Pacific, Regional Unit for Social and Human Sciences in Asia and the Pacific (RUSHSAP) 920 Sukhumvit Road, Prakanong Bangkok 10110 Thailand Journal Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Online ISSN 1872-4353 Print ISSN 1176-7529 Journal Volume Volume 7 Journal Issue Volume 7, Number 2.
The unknown nature of tomorrow’s research makes informed consent in biobank research a challenge. Whether the consent given by biobank participants is ‘broad’ or ‘narrow’, the ever present question remains the same: are new activities covered by the original consent? In this article, we focus on the meaning of, and the relation between, broad consent and re-consent in biobank research. We argue that broad consent should be understood as consenting to a framework—a framework which covers aims, core conditions for acceptable (...) use, governance and how these affect participants. Changes that alter the framework in a fundamental way call for re-consent. Three biobank cases of current international interest are used to debate when re-consent is an ethical necessity: whole-genome sequencing, data sharing and commercial utilization. These reflections give us a more nuanced view on what consent is for. We claim that the introduction of broad consents in biobank research has not represented a betrayal of individual participant interests, as some critics have asserted. Broad consents combined with the possible use of re-consent are in certain settings not inferior, but rather ethically superior to narrow consents. In population-based research biobanks, they allow for a reconciliation between individual interest and public matters in society at large. (shrink)
It is generally assumed in research ethics that research participants have an unconditional right to withdraw from research without any detriment or reprisal. This paper analyses this right in the context of biobank research and argues that the traditional shape of the right in clinical research can be modified in biobank research without incurring significant ethical cost. The paper falls in three parts. The first part is a brief explication of the philosophical justification of the right to withdraw. The second (...) part presents a number of extant criticisms of the right. And the third and final part argues that although a right to withdraw is crucial in relation to biobank research, such a right has to be specified in a different way to the similar right in relation to clinical research. (shrink)
BackgroundThe amount of research utilizing health information has increased dramatically over the last ten years. Many institutions have extensive biobank holdings collected over a number of years for clinical and teaching purposes, but are uncertain as to the proper circumstances in which to permit research uses of these samples. Research Ethics Boards (REBs) in Canada and elsewhere in the world are grappling with these issues, but lack clear guidance regarding their role in the creation of and access to registries and (...)biobanks.MethodsChairs of 34 REBS and/or REB Administrators affiliated with Faculties of Medicine in Canadian universities were interviewed. Interviews consisted of structured questions dealing with diabetes-related scenarios, with open-ended responses and probing for rationales. The two scenarios involved the development of a diabetes registry using clinical encounter data across several physicians' practices, and the addition of biological samples to the registry to create a biobank.ResultsThere was a wide range of responses given for the questions raised in the scenarios, indicating a lack of clarity about the role of REBs in registries and biobanks. With respect to the creation of a registry, a minority of sites felt that consent was not required for the information to be entered into the registry. Whether patient consent was required for information to be entered into the registry and the duration for which the consent would be operative differed across sites. With respect to the creation of a biobank linked to the registry, a majority of sites viewed biobank information as qualitatively different from other types of personal health information. All respondents agreed that patient consent was needed for blood samples to be placed in the biobank but the duration of consent again varied.ConclusionParticipants were more attuned to issues surrounding biobanks as compared to registries and demonstrated a higher level of concern regarding biobanks. As registries and biobanks expand, there is a need for critical analysis of suitable roles for REBs and subsequent guidance on these topics. The authors conclude by recommending REB participation in the creation of registries and biobanks and the eventual drafting of comprehensive legislation. (shrink)
Public participation is increasingly an aspect of policy development in many areas, and the governance of biomedical research is no exception. There are good reasons for this: biomedical research relies on public funding; it relies on biological samples and information from large numbers of patients and healthy individuals; and the outcomes of biomedical research are dramatically and irrevocably changing our society. There is thus arguably a democratic imperative for including public values in strategic decisions about the governance of biomedical research. (...) However, it is not immediately clear how this might best be achieved. While different approaches have been proposed and trialled, we focus here on the use of public deliberation as a mechanism to develop input for policy on biomedical research. We begin by explaining the rationale for conducting public deliberation in biomedical research. We focus, in particular, on the ELS (ethical, legal, social) aspects of human tissue biobanking. The last few years have seen the development of methods for conducting public deliberation on these issues in several jurisdictions, for the purpose of incorporating lay public voices in biobanking policy. We explain the theoretical foundation underlying the notion of deliberation, and outline the main lessons and capacities that have been developed in the area of conducting public deliberation on biobanks. We next provide an analysis of the theoretical and practical challenges that we feel still need to be addressed for the use of public deliberation to guide ethical norms and governance of biomedical research. We examine the issues of: (i) linking the outcomes of deliberation to tangible action; (ii) the mandate under which a deliberation is conducted; (iii) the relative weight that should be accorded to a public deliberative forum vs other relevant voices; (iv) evaluating the quality of deliberation; and (5) the problem of scalability of minipublics. (shrink)
This article aims to revise the ethical and social implications for clinical biobanks and their application in Italy, in the Liguria Region and in a comprehensive cancer centre in Genoa. The policies already in place in the regional network and in the IST National Institute for Cancer Research in terms of involvement of the community of patients and citizens are described, as well as the future development of initiatives aimed at improving the active participation of the community. The author (...) is a biobank manager and not a professional bioethicist. The world of biobanks in Italy includes large numbers of small initiatives, and ‘biobankers’ are aware that public engagement is essential to ensure public trust and to give legitimacy to the research. The governance of these research infrastructures requires new tools in order to improve involvement of participants. The October 2011 Conference, ‘New Patient-Centric Perspectives in Medical Research: Ethical and Governance Challenges’ has been an important occasion for bringing together different experiences and expertise and for learning about new forms of participant-centric approaches and tools. (shrink)
The tissue biobanking of specific biological residual materials, which constitutes a useful resource for medical/scientific research, has raised some ethical issues, such as the need to define which kind of consent is applicable for biological residual materials biobanks.
Biobanks are currently archiving human materials for medical research at a hitherto unprecedented rate. These valuable resources will be essential for developing ‘personalized’ medicines and for a better understanding of disease susceptibilities. However, for such scientific advances to benefit everyone, it is crucial that biobanks recruit donations from all sections of the community. Unfortunately, other initiatives, such as transplant programmes, have clearly demonstrated that ethnic minorities are under-represented. Here we suggest that this issue deserves serious consideration to avoid (...)biobanks evolving into ethnically biased archives which unwittingly promote race-specific research. Specifically, this necessitates research ethics committees engaging in a re-assessment of the relative merits of individual personal sovereignty and the common good. (shrink)
The so-called Brundtland-Report defines Sustainable Development as a conception of intra- and intergenerational justice, which is to be realized by a globally just distribution of possibilities for satisfying human basic needs as well as assuring such possibilities for future generations. Hence, any political and/or societal decision is addressed by the ethical demands of Sustainable Development insofar it affects possibilities for satisfying human basic needs. In particular, this concerns – contrary to the widespread opinion that Sustainable Development only has to deal (...) with problems of environmental ethics – the legitimization of biomedical applications. After all, especially such decisions often face the problem of measuring and trading-off potential advantages and disadvantages regarding possibilities for satisfying human basic needs. Based on the example of decisions about establishing biobanks, my talk firstly will show that Sustainable Development actually demands much more from political and societal decisions than just being concerned about environmental ethics. Secondly, it will clarify these demands in detail. Thirdly, it will address the issues of how these demands can be implemented adequately. My talk therefore will show which conditions political and/or societal decision processes have to meet in order to comply with Sustainable Development. (shrink)
Biobanks are an important resource for medical research. Genetic research on biological material from minors can yield valuable information that can improve our understanding of genetic–environmental interactions and the genesis and development of early onset genetic disorders. The major ethical concerns relating to biobanks concern consent, privacy, confidentiality, commercialisation, and the right to know or not to know. However, research on paediatric data raises specific governance and ethical questions with regard to consent and privacy. We have considered the (...) Italian normative context focusing on what is mentioned in each document on the ethical and legal requirements that guarantee the rights of minors. We found out that there is no systematic reflection on the ethical and policy issues arising from the participation of minors in biobank research. Moreover, we have focused on the same aspects for the new Italian Law on the National Forensic Biobank. (shrink)
The collection and storage of human tissue samples has been present in medicine for centuries, however, biobanking has recently become a dedicated activity. The technological developments that have allowed the isolation, storage and long term viability of human cells ex vivo, and to obtain relevant scientific information, including genetic information, open tremendous possibilities for advancing biomedical research. At the same time, these possibilities have raised complex ethical issues regarding tissue donors, researchers using samples and society awareness of biobanking as a (...) whole. This article aims to review the operation of stem cell biobanks, related ethical issues and the legal framework in Spain. Special consideration will be given to the new but revolutionary appearance of induced pluripotent stem cells. Most of the topics discussed here will be in the framework of banking adult derived stem cells, which do not entail in themselves any significant ethical dilemma. (shrink)
This article examines the complex and contemporary issue of the return of research results in biobanks. After suggesting the exclusion of some adjacent issues usually flanking the debate, this article reviews the current practices of biobanks on the disclosure of research results to participants. It then focuses more specifically on the debate in the literature before turning to a review of the typology of recent reforms being put forward.
This paper argues that a certain way of thinking about the function of the biobank—about what it does and is constructed for as a social institution aimed at ‘some good’—can and should play a substantial role in an effective biobanking ethic. It first exemplifies an ‘institution shaped gap’ in the current field of biobanking ethics. Next the biobank is conceptualized as a social institution that is apt for a certain kind of purposive functional definition such that we know it by (...) what it does and what it is designed to do. This purpose is then characterized further as essentially incorporating the human goods the institution is designed to serve, such that it plays a useful and indispensible role in how it should operate, i.e. in the ethics and governance of biobanking. Finally the ethical scope and limitations of such a theory is clarified by a discussion of some theoretical objections and suggested practical examples of its application. (shrink)
On 19 December 2008 the Official Journal of Belgium published the ‘Law regarding the procurement and use of human body material destined for human medical applications or for scientific research purposes’. This paper will comment on various aspects of the Law: its scope of application (what is understood by ‘body material’?); its concept of ‘residual human body material’ (with far-reaching implications for the type of consent required for research); the nature of actions with and uses of human body material that (...) are explicitly prohibited; the right of donors to be informed of relevant information revealed by the use of their body material; and the special responsibilities placed on hospital ethics committees. As will be argued in this paper, several of these provisions are highly problematic from an ethical point of view, especially those relating to consent. Meanwhile, the Minister of Public Health has asked the Belgian Advisory Committee on Bioethics for advice on the incorporation of the ‘presumed consent’ model, that applies to post mortem organ donation, into the biobank Law’s provisions on post mortem removal and use of body material. This aspect of the Law effectively extends the ‘presumed consent’ regime, both from organs to body material in general, and from therapeutic uses to research uses. (shrink)
It is now being recognized across the spectrum of bioethics, and particularly in genetics and population ethics, that to focus on the individual person, and thereby neglect communities and the goods which accrue to them, is to fail to see all the ethically significant features of a range of ethical issues. This article argues that more work needs to be done in order for bioethics to respect not only goods (such as rights and interests) of communities per se, but also (...) to recognize the difference between different types of communities and their goods. The diversity of communities and the types of communal goods which accrue to them is first outlined. Following this, a basic distinction between two such types: aggregative and corporate community goods, is explained and defended, and it is then argued argue that this distinction is necessary to understand and address what and whom is ethically at stake in any situation. This is illustrated with the example of UK Biobank, the conclusion being that if current and future individual are to be respected then communal goods of both types must be recognized and respected in an effective bioethics. (shrink)
This article provides an overview of recent contributions to the debate on the ethical use of previously collected biobank samples, as well as a country report about how this issue has been regulated in Spain by means of the new Biomedical Research Act, enacted in the summer of 2007. By contrasting the Spanish legal situation with the wider discourse of international bioethics, we identify and discuss a general trend moving from the traditional requirements of informed consent towards new models more (...) favourable to research in a post-genomic context. (shrink)
Aim: While there is widespread agreement on the broad aspects of what constitutes a biobank, there is much disagreement regarding the precise definition. This research aimed to describe and analyse the definitions of the term biobank offered by various stakeholders in biobanking. Methods: Interviews were conducted with 36 biobanking stakeholders with international experience currently working in Switzerland. Results: The results show that, in addition to the core concepts of biological samples and linked data, the planned use of samples (including sharing) (...) is held to be a key criterion. It also emerges that some researchers avoid the term in order to circumvent certain regulatory guidelines, including informed consent requirements. Conclusion: Developments in the field of biobanking will be complicated if researchers are unaware, or deny that their collection is a biobank. A clear definition of the term is therefore an important step towards fostering collaboration amongst researchers, enabling them to more easily identify potential sources of samples. (shrink)
This paper argues that the demands of respect for autonomy in the context of biobanking are fewer and more limited than is often supposed. It discusses the difficulties of agreeing a concept of autonomy from which duties can easily be derived, and suggests an alternative way to determine what respect for autonomy in a biobanking context requires. These requirements, it argues, are limited to provision of adequate information and non-coercion. While neither of these is in itself negligible, this is a (...) smaller set of demands than is often suggested. In particular, it is argued here that securing ‘one time consent’ is consistent with respect for autonomy. Finally, the paper notes that while the demands of respect for autonomy may be less than some suppose, respecting autonomy is not the only way in which biobanks and their users may have moral duties to donors. (shrink)
Great hope has been placed on biobank research as a strategy to improve diagnostics, therapeutics and prevention. It seems to be a common opinion that these goals cannot be reached without the participation of commercial actors. However, commercial use of biobanks is considered morally problematic and the commercialisation of human biological materials is regulated internationally by policy documents, conventions and laws. For instance, the Council of Europe recommends that: “Biological materials should not, as such, give rise to financial gain”. (...) Similarly, Norwegian legislation reads: “Commercial exploitation of research participants, human biological material and personal health data in general is prohibited”. Both articles represent kinds of common moral intuitions. A problem, however, is that legislative documents are too vague and provide room for ample speculation. Through the use of focus group interviews with Norwegian biobank donors, we have tried to identify lay intuitions and morals regarding the commercial use of biobanks. Our findings indicate that the act of donation and the subsequent uses of the samples belong to two different spheres. While concerns around dignity and commodification were present in the first, injustice and unfairness were our informants’ major moral concerns in the latter. Although some opposition towards commercial actors was voiced, these intuitions show that it is possible to render commercial use of biobanks ethically acceptable based on frameworks and regulations which hinder commodification of the human body and promote communal benefit sharing. (shrink)
Background: Multi-collaborator research is increasingly becoming the norm in the field of biomedicine. With this trend comes the imperative to award recognition to all those who contribute to a study; however, there is a gap in the current “gold standard” in authorship guidelines with regards to the efforts of those who provide high quality biosamples and data, yet do not play a role in the intellectual development of the final publication. -/- Methods and findings: We carried out interviews with 36 (...) individuals working in, or with links to, biobanks in Switzerland, in order to understand how they interpret, apply and value authorship criteria in studies involving biosamples. The majority of respondents feel that authorship is an important motivating factor in working and publishing collaboratively. However, our findings suggest that in some cases, authorship guidelines are being ignored in favor of departmental standards which recognize “scientific work” as meriting authorship. -/- Conclusions: Our results support the current calls in the literature for an alternative method of crediting biomaterial contributions, in order to ensure appropriate authorship inclusion and promote collaborative research involving biobanks. (shrink)
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