Genes, cells, and biobanks: Yes, there’s still a consent problem

by Timothy Caulfield, Blake Murdoch

From a research perspective, the interest in biobanking continues to intensify. Governments and industry have invested heavily in biobanks, as exemplified by initiatives like the United Kingdom Biobank and United States’ Precision Medicine Initiative. But despite this enthusiasm, many profound legal and ethical challenges remain unresolved. Indeed, there continues to be disagreements about how best to obtain consent and the degree and nature of control that research participants retain over donated samples and health information. Emerging social trends—including concerns about commercialization and perceived rights of continuing control (“biorights”)—seem likely to intensify these issues.

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