Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 11 (2):181-190 (2008)

A great part of human genetics research is carried out collecting data and building large databases of biological samples that are in a non-anonymous format. These constitute a valuable resource for future research. The construction of such databases and tissue banks facilitates important scientific progress. However, biobanks have been recognized as ethically problematic because they contain thousands of data that could expose individuals and populations to discrimination, stigmatization and psychological stress if misused. Informed consent is regarded as a cornerstone in the protection of personal autonomy in research involving human subjects. Yet in recent years this fundamental concept has been overwhelmed by the genomic revolution. From a general overview of international literature, it seems evident that informed consent issues have come into sharp focus, in particular in relation to the twin issues of time extension (blanket versus specific/repeated consent) and personal extension (group consent). After an introduction on obtaining informed consent in the context of genetic research, this paper addresses the apparent lack of a single, universal model of obtaining informed consent among populations involved in genetic research and it argues for the need to develop an ethical framework tailored to the specific features of each project. In order to support this theory of contextualizing, the case of a private biotechnology company, SharDNA is presented. The present paper explores the management of its biobank, developed from a genetic research project carried out on isolated populations living on the Italian island of Sardinia. In particular, the paper highlights how the company is tackling the problem of informed consent and other ethical requirements for genetic research, such as the respect of individual privacy, the population approach and the existing Italian legal regulatory framework.
Keywords ethical framework  ethics of genetic databases  group consent  informed consent  population genomics
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DOI 10.1007/s11019-007-9086-y
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Some Limits of Informed Consent.O. O'Neill - 2003 - Journal of Medical Ethics 29 (1):4-7.

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