Research article

BMC Medical Ethics

, 3:1

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Attitudes of the Japanese public and doctors towards use of archived information and samples without informed consent: Preliminary findings based on focus group interviews

  • Atsushi AsaiAffiliated withDepartment of Biomedical Ethics, School of Public Health, Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine Email author 
  • , Motoki OhnishiAffiliated withQuarantine station, The Kansai International Airport
  • , Etsuyo NishigakiAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Wakayama Medical College
  • , Miho SekimotoAffiliated withDepartment of General Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology, Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine
  • , Shunichi FukuharaAffiliated withDepartment of Epidemiology and Health Care Research, School of Public Health, Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine
  • , Tsuguya FukuiAffiliated withDepartment of General Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology, Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine

Abstract

Background

The purpose of this study is to explore laypersons' attitudes toward the use of archived (existing) materials such as medical records and biological samples and to compare them with the attitudes of physicians who are involved in medical research.

Methods

Three focus group interviews were conducted, in which seven Japanese male members of the general public, seven female members of the general public and seven physicians participated.

Results

It was revealed that the lay public expressed diverse attitudes towards the use of archived information and samples without informed consent. Protecting a subject's privacy, maintaining confidentiality, and communicating the outcomes of studies to research subjects were regarded as essential preconditions if researchers were to have access to archived information and samples used for research without the specific informed consent of the subjects who provided the material. Although participating physicians thought that some kind of prior permission from subjects was desirable, they pointed out the difficulties involved in obtaining individual informed consent in each case.

Conclusions

The present preliminary study indicates that the lay public and medical professionals may have different attitudes towards the use of archived information and samples without specific informed consent. This hypothesis, however, is derived from our focus groups interviews, and requires validation through research using a larger sample.