The ethics of research using biobanks: reason to question the importance attributed to informed consent

Arch Intern Med. 2005 Jan 10;165(1):97-100. doi: 10.1001/archinte.165.1.97.


Background: During the past decade, the use of stored tissue has become an object of increased ethical query. A Swedish biobank and a biotech company have been praised for solving the ethical problems with explicit informed consent procedures, and we decided to investigate donors' perceptions of the system.

Methods: A questionnaire was sent to a randomized sample of 1200 donors who had donated blood and signed informed consent forms.

Results: The response rate was 80.9%. Of the respondents, 64.5% were aware that they had consented to donate a blood sample, 55.4% thought that they had consented to donate phenotypic information, and 31.6% believed that they could withdraw their consent. Among respondents, 3.9% considered informing donors about the research objective as the most important ethical issue in relation to biobanks, and 5.6% were unsatisfied with the information they had been given. There was 85.9% acceptance of surrogate decision making by regional research ethics committees.

Conclusions: Considering that the donors in this study were not always aware of their donation but generally were not unsatisfied with the information they had received, and that they did not rate being informed about the research objective as an important issue, informed consent seems to be an inadequate measure of public acceptance of biobank-based research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biotechnology / ethics*
  • Blood Banks / ethics*
  • Blood Donors*
  • Ethics, Research*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Industry / ethics
  • Informed Consent* / ethics
  • Informed Consent* / psychology
  • Male
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden
  • Tissue Banks / ethics*