All in the Blood: A Review of Aboriginal Australians' Cultural Beliefs About Blood and Implications for Biospecimen Research

J Empir Res Hum Res Ethics. 2015 Oct;10(4):347-59. doi: 10.1177/1556264615604521.


Public participation in medical research and biobanking is considered key to advances in scientific discovery and translation to improved health care. Cultural concerns relating to blood have been found to affect the participation of indigenous peoples and minorities in research, but such concerns are rarely specified in the literature. This article presents a review of the role of blood in Australian Aboriginal cultures. We discuss the range of meanings and uses of blood in traditional culture, including their use in ceremonies, healing, and sorcery. We draw on more recent literature on Aboriginal Australians and biomedicine to consider how traditional beliefs may be changing over time. These findings provide an empirical basis for researchers and bioethicists to develop culturally grounded strategies to boost the participation of Aboriginal Australians in biomedical research. They also serve as a model for integrating anthropological literature with bioethical concerns that could be applied to other indigenous and minority groups.

Keywords: Aboriginal; biospecimen; blood; culture; ethics; indigenous.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude*
  • Australia
  • Biological Specimen Banks*
  • Biomedical Research*
  • Community-Institutional Relations*
  • Culture*
  • Humans
  • Minority Groups*
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander*