Biosamples, genomics, and human rights: context and content of Iceland's Biobanks Act

J Biolaw Bus. 2001;4(2):11-7.


In recent years, human DNA sampling and collection has accelerated without the development of enforceable rules protecting the human rights of donors. The need for regulation of biobanking is especially acute in Iceland, whose parliament has granted a for-profit corporation, deCODE Genetics, an exclusive license to create a centralized database of health records for studies on human genetic variation. Until recently, how deCODE Genetics would get genetic material for its genotypic-phenotypic database remained unclear. However, in May 2000, the Icelandic Parliament passed the Icelandic Biobanks Act, the world's earliest attempt to construct binding rules for the use of biobanks in scientific research. Unfortunately, Iceland has lost an opportunity for bringing clear and ethically sound standards to the use of human biological samples in deCODE's database and in other projects: the Biobanks Act has extended a notion of "presumed consent" from the use of medical records to the use of patients' biological samples; worse, the act has made it possible--perhaps likely--that a donor's wish to withdraw his/her sample will be ignored. Inadequacies in the Act's legislative process help account for these deficiencies in the protection of donor autonomy.

MeSH terms

  • Blood Specimen Collection / ethics
  • Databases as Topic / ethics
  • Databases as Topic / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Databases as Topic / standards
  • Databases, Nucleic Acid / ethics
  • Databases, Nucleic Acid / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Databases, Nucleic Acid / standards
  • Genetic Privacy / ethics
  • Genetic Privacy / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Genetic Research / ethics
  • Genetic Research / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Human Rights / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • Iceland
  • Informed Consent / ethics
  • Informed Consent / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Legislation as Topic*
  • Medical Records
  • Preservation, Biological
  • Presumed Consent / ethics
  • Presumed Consent / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Tissue Donors / legislation & jurisprudence*