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Ethically sustainable governance in the biobanking of eggs and embryos for research

Abstract

Biobanking of human tissues is associated with a range of ethical, legal, and social (ELS) challenges. These include difficulties in operationalising informed consent protocols, protecting donors’ privacy, managing the return of incidental findings, conceptualising ownership of tissues, and benefit sharing. Though largely unresolved, these challenges are well documented and debated in academic literature. One common response to the ELS challenges of biobanks is a call for strong and independent governance of biobanks. Theorists who argue along these lines suggest that since fully informed consent to a single research project is often not feasible, research participants should be given the additional protection of being allowed to consent to the governance framework of the biobank. Such governance therefore needs to be transparent and ethically sustainable. In this paper we review the governance challenges of establishing and maintaining human tissue biobanks. We then discuss how the creation of a biobank for eggs and embryos, in particular, may introduce additional or unique challenges beyond those presented by the biobanking of other human tissues. Following previous work on biobank governance, we argue that ethically sustainable governance needs to be participatory, adaptive, and trustworthy.

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Notes

  1. Some versions of open consent may also involve participants agreeing to any uses within a stated scope of research.

  2. We note here recent advances that allow genetic material from more than `two individuals to be used in the creation of embryos.

  3. For further discussion of the commodification of biological materials see Dickenson (2007), and Thompson (2014).

  4. The fourth principle of ‘fit’ outlined by O’Doherty et al. (2011) is implicit in this discussion, since it pertains to consideration of a specific type of biobank.

  5. However, as outlined above, Canadian regulations may prohibit this.

  6. See http://www.geneticalliance.org/programs/biotrust/peer.

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Correspondence to Kieran C. O’Doherty.

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Stroud, K., O’Doherty, K.C. Ethically sustainable governance in the biobanking of eggs and embryos for research. Monash Bioeth. Rev. 33, 277–294 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40592-015-0047-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40592-015-0047-6

Keywords

  • Biobank
  • Embryos
  • Governance
  • Eggs
  • Public engagement
  • Stem cells