Ethical and Legal Issues in the Procurement, Storage and Use of DNA
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At the risk of ignoring the benefits, the problems of genetic testing have been widely discussed. Many clinical laboratories are archival stores for human tissues and very few have formal policies and procedures for the use of this material. There is little evidence of planning or preparation of appropriate protocols for the safekeeping of the collected clinical material. The process of informed consent needs to be re-examined. The standard of what would be expected by a reasonable and prudent person poses challenging questions relating to confidentiality and privacy, control and ownership of the stored tissue and cells, withdrawing from a research study, length of storage of samples, the use of biological materials by other parties, and the use of biological materials for purposes other than those for which they were first obtained. There also needs to be a clear understanding of identifiable, non-identifiable and anonymous samples. Clinical laboratory staff and their professional organisations need to engage in the discussion and development around the ethical, legal and social issues raised by testing human DNA. Clinical research laboratories will be increasingly involved in DNA testing and will be asked for access to stored blood or tissue. It is essential that professional responsibility is understood and is then exercised in the presence of appropriate policies and procedures. There is also a paramount need to involve the public who are already demonstrating evidence of alienation from the world occupied by genetics research.
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