Genetic research has moved from Mendelian genetics to sequence maps to the study of natural human genetic variation at the level of the genome. This past decade of discovery has been accompanied by a shift in emphasis towards the ethical principles of reciprocity, mutuality, solidarity, citizenry and universality.
Currently, the return of results in the domain of biobanking constitutes an ethical and legal quagmire, whether it involves population or specific clinical research studies. In light of the fact that population biobanks are often not seen as distinct from those biobanks created for disease research, as well as the uncertainty as to what “return of results” means concretely, this lexicon attempts to demystify the terminology. The terms — results, return, clinical significance, and utility — are discussed. Through an analysis (...) of international and national normative guidance on this issue, the authors propose a concordance of meaning and a simplified lexicon. (shrink)
BackgroundObtaining a research participant’s voluntary and informed consent is the bedrock of sound ethics practice. Greater inclusion of children in research has led to questions about how paediatric consent operates in practice to accord with current and emerging legal and socio-ethical issues, norms, and requirements.MethodsEmploying a qualitative thematic content analysis, we examined paediatric consent forms from major academic centres and public organisations across Canada dated from 2008–2011, which were purposively selected to reflect different types of research ethics boards, participants, and (...) studies. The studies included biobanking, longitudinal studies, and gene-environment studies. Our purpose was to explore the following six emerging issues: (1) whether the scope of parental consent allows for a child’s assent, dissent, or future consent; (2) whether the concepts of risk and benefit incorporate the child’s psychological and social perspective; (3) whether a child’s ability to withdraw is respected and to what extent withdrawal is permitted; (4) whether the return of research results includes individual results and/or incidental findings and the processes involved therein; (5) whether privacy and confidentiality concerns adequately address the child’s perspective and whether standard data and/or sample identifiability nomenclature is used; and (6) whether retention of and access to paediatric biological samples and associated medical data are addressed.ResultsThe review suggests gaps and variability in the consent forms with respect to addressing each of the six issues. Many forms did not discuss the possibility of returning research results, be they individual or general/aggregate results. Forms were also divided in terms of the scope of parental consent (specific versus broad), and none discussed a process for resolving disputes that can arise when either the parents or the child wishes to withdraw from the study.ConclusionsThe analysis provides valuable insight and evidence into how consent forms address current ethical issues. While we do not thoroughly explore the contexts and reasons behind consent form gaps and variability, we do advocate and formulate the development of best practices for drafting paediatric health research consent forms. This can greatly ameliorate current gaps and facilitate harmonised and yet contextualised approaches to paediatric health research ethics. (shrink)
As exome and genome sequencing move into clinical application, questions surround how to elicit consent and handle potential return of individual genomic results. This study analyzes nine consent forms used in NIH-funded sequencing studies. Content analysis reveals considerable heterogeneity, including in defining results that may be returned, identifying potential benefits and risks of return, protecting privacy, addressing placement of results in the medical record, and data-sharing. In response to lack of consensus, we offer recommendations.
BackgroundGlobal collaboration in genomic research is increasingly both a scientific reality and an ethical imperative. This past decade has witnessed the emergence of six new, interconnected areas of ethical consensus and emphasis for policy in genomics: governance, security, empowerment, transparency, the right not to know, and globalization.DiscussionThe globalization of genomic research warrants an approach to governance policies grounded in human rights.SummaryA human rights approach activates the ethical principles underpinning genomic research. It lends force to the right of all citizens to (...) benefit from scientific progress, and to the right of all scientists to be recognized for their contributions. (shrink)
Paediatric genomic research raises particularly challenging questions on whether and under what circumstances to return research results. In the paediatric context, decision-making is guided by the best interests of the child framework, as enshrined in the 1989 international Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to this Convention, rights and responsibilities are shared between children, parents, researchers, and the state. These "relational" obligations are further complicated in the context of genetic research.
Policymaking is both an art and a science. It is a long process of research, debate and consensus . The elaboration of the Framework for Responsible Sharing of Genomic and Health-Related Data serves as an illustration of this process.
This article outlines procedures for the feedback of individual research data to participants. This feedback framework was developed in the context of a personalized medicine research project in Canada. Researchers in this domain have an ethical obligation to return individual research results and/or material incidental findings that are clinically significant, valid and actionable to participants. Communication of individual research data must proceed in an ethical and efficient manner. Feedback involves three procedural steps: assessing the health relevance of a finding, re-identifying (...) the affected participant, and communicating the finding. Re-identification requires researchers to break the code in place to protect participant identities. Coding systems replace personal identifiers with a numerical code. Double coding systems provide added privacy protection by separating research data from personal identifying data with a third "linkage" database. A trusted and independent intermediary, the "keyholder", controls access to this linkage database. (shrink)
This paper addresses the ethical issues of secondary uses of samples collected for identification purposes following mass disasters. It studies norms governing secondary use of samples , ultimately concluding that limited secondary research uses of these samples should be permissible.
The collapse of confidence in anonymization as a robust approach for preserving the privacy of personal data has incited an outpouring of new approaches that aim to fill the resulting trifecta of technical, organizational, and regulatory privacy gaps left in its wake. In the latter category, and in large part due to the growth of Big Data–driven biomedical research, falls a growing chorus of calls for criminal and penal offences to sanction wrongful re-identification of “anonymized” data. This chorus cuts across (...) the fault lines of polarized privacy law scholarship that at times seems to advocate privacy protection at the expense of Big Data research or vice versa. Focusing on Big Data in the context of biomedicine, this article surveys the approaches that criminal or penal law might take toward wrongful re-identification of health data. It contextualizes the strategies within their respective legal regimes as well as in relation to emerging privacy debates focusing on personal data use and data linkage and assesses the relative merit of criminalization. We conclude that this approach suffers from several flaws and that alternative social and legal strategies to deter wrongful re-identification may be preferable. (shrink)