Exploring the socioethical dilemmas in the use of a global health archive

Research Ethics 15 (1):1-9 (2019)
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A global health archive consisting of podoconiosis tissue slides and blocks, was donated to Brighton & Sussex Medical School in 2014. There is little guidance on the socioethical and legal issues surrounding the retrospective use of archived or ‘abandoned’ tissue samples, which poses a number of questions relating to the ethical standing of the archive. There is a great deal of interpretation in the guidelines that are currently in existence; however, modern ethical principles cannot be applied as it is not feasible to either reconsent or retrospectively seek approval. Our research team believed that it was unethical to leave the archive in storage, as this option favours neither researcher nor subjects. Permission was obtained from the Human Tissue Authority and a local ethics board for the tissues to be utilized in on-going research on podoconiosis aetiology. There is a delicate balance between the benefits gained by society relating to the development and progress of scientific research and the risks to the donor regarding the reuse of their tissues. Clearer guidelines should be made available to ensure that researchers are able to reuse tissue archives in contemporary research.



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The use of human tissue.Grant Gillett - 2007 - Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 4 (2):119-127.
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