The moral concerns of biobank donors: the effect of non-welfare interests on willingness to donate

Life Sciences, Society and Policy 12 (1):1-15 (2016)
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Donors to biobanks are typically asked to give blanket consent, allowing their donation to be used in any research authorized by the biobank. This type of consent ignores the evidence that some donors have moral, religious, or cultural concerns about the future uses of their donations – concerns we call “non-welfare interests”. The nature of non-welfare interests and their effect on willingness to donate to a biobank is not well understood. In order to better undersand the influence of non-welfare interests, we surveyed a national sample of the US population using a probability-based internet panel. Logistic regression models assessed the demographic and attitudinal characteristics associated with participants’ willingness to give consent for unspecified future uses of their donation when presented with 7 research scenarios that raised possible non-welfare interest concerns. Most people had non-welfare interests that significantly affect their willingness to donate to a biobank using blanket consent. Some non-welfare interests are associated with subgroups but others are not. A positive attitude toward biomedical research in general was associated with increased willingness to donate, while concerns about privacy and being African American were associated with decreased willingness. Non-welfare interests matter and can diminish willingness to donate to a biobank. Our data suggest that trust in research promotes willingness to donate. Ignoring non-welfare interests could erode this trust. Donors’ non-welfare interests could be accommodated through greater transparency and easier access to information about the uses of donations.



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Tom Tomlinson
Michigan State University