Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Human Tissue Act: When shouldn't a request to not require consent be granted

In this post: The Human Tissue Act An open question for Research Ethics Committees Part 1 I introduced a series of posts that I intend to make regarding the Human Tissue Act (In the UK) and it's implications for Research Ethics Committees. I noted that the Human Tissue Act gave RECs the responsibility of deciding when human tissue may be used without seeking consent from the research subject. In this post I'm going to explore some of the cases where I think a request to not require consent shouldn't be granted.

The first and most obvious case would be one where the gathering of consent is easy. Take for example a piece of prospective research intending to use the left over waste blood samples taken from diabetics who have come in for a routine clinic as soon as these samples are gathered. It really adds minimal cost or hassle to get properly informed consent in this scenario, so an application to waive the need for informed consent ought not be approved.

Harder cases are when there is some hassle or cost involved in getting informed consent, where for example the patient is not competent, or the sample is older and the patient needs to be contacted via mail. Nonetheless I am inclined to think that in many of these cases if the collection of the sample is routine rather than urgent, or if the patient is contactable then RECs should be reluctant to not require informed consent.

Do you have any other cases to suggest?

In the next part of this series I will discuss when these applications should be approved.

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