Human Biospecimens Come from People

Ethics and Human Research 41 (2) (2019)
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Abstract

Contrary to the revised Common Rule, and contrary to the views of many bioethicists and researchers, we argue that broad consent should be sought for anticipated later research uses of deidentified biospecimens and health information collected during medical care. Individuals differ in the kinds of risk they find concerning and in their willingness to permit use of their biospecimens for future research. For this reason, asking their permission for unspecified research uses is a fundamental expression of respect for them as persons and should be done absent some compelling moral consideration to the contrary. We examine three moral considerations and argue that each of them fails: that there is a duty of easy rescue binding on all, that seeking consent creates a selection bias that undermines the validity of biospecimen research, and that seeking and documenting consent will be prohibitively expensive.

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Tom Tomlinson
Michigan State University

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