Active choice but not too active: public perspectives on biobank consent models

Genet Med. 2011 Sep;13(9):821-31. doi: 10.1097/GIM.0b013e31821d2f88.


Purpose: Despite important recent work, US public attitudes toward specific biobank consent models are not well understood. Public opinion data can help shape efforts to develop ethically sound and publicly trusted mechanisms for informing and consenting prospective biobank donors. The purpose of this study was to explore public perspectives toward a range of consent models currently being used or considered for use among comprehensive US biobanks.

Methods: The study used an exploratory mixed-methods design, using focus groups and telephone surveys. Eligible participants were English-speaking residents in the catchment area of a comprehensive biobank being developed at the University of Iowa.

Results: Forty-eight participants in seven focus groups and 751 survey participants were recruited. Biobanks were unfamiliar to almost all study participants but were seen as valuable resources. Most focus group (63%) and survey (67%) participants preferred a prospective opt-in over an opt-out consent approach. Broad, research-unspecific consent was preferred over categorical and study-specific consent models for purposes of approving future research use.

Conclusion: Many individuals may want to make an active and informed choice at the point of being approached for biobank participation but are prepared to consent broadly to future research use and to forego additional choices as a result.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biological Specimen Banks / ethics*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent / ethics*
  • Male
  • Mental Competency
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Opinion
  • United States