Background: The debate over informed consent for research on stored biological samples has enormous scientific implications. Unfortunately, there are no data on individuals' attitudes regarding when their consent should be obtained for such research.
Methods: Data were gathered using a telephone survey of 504 individuals living in the United States. Two cohorts were studied: (1) individuals who had participated in clinical research and contributed biological samples and (2) randomly selected Medicare recipients.
Results: Of the respondents, 65.8% would require their consent for research on clinically derived, personally identified samples; 27.3% would require it for research on clinically derived samples that are "anonymized." For research-derived samples, 29.0% of the respondents would require their consent if the samples retain personal identifiers; 12.1% would require it if the samples are anonymized before the research is conducted. Also, 88.8% would want to be informed of results of uncertain clinical significance, and 91.9% would not impose greater safeguards on future research on a different disease.
Conclusions: Current practice and policy recommendations regarding research using stored biological samples may be inconsistent with sources' preferences in several respects. In particular, it appears that most sources want to control whether their samples are used for research purposes, are not concerned with the particular disease that will be studied, and want to receive results of uncertain clinical significance. Follow-up research will be needed to assess the generalizability of the current data.