You had me at “blanket consent.” That would seem to be the sentiment of biobank donors, who are often quite willing to provide one-time permission for any future research uses of their donated specimens. Yet, according to a recent survey, donors often feel less generous if biobanks offer more detailed consent terms, which may bring to mind moral, religious, or cultural reservations. Donors may object, for example, to profit-driven efforts or investigations into stem cell therapies or military applications. Ultimately, donors and biobanks are left to ponder how much information is too much information. About 45% of survey respondents indicate that the most detailed consent terms—which ask donors to agree to every study using their specimens—represent “the worst option.” Better options may require consent terms that balance donors’ moral concerns with agreeably high (and sustainable) donation rates.

Poll Question:
How should consent terms reconcile donors’ moral concerns with biobanks’ research goals?

Keep consent terms broad and vague. Avoid specifics that might arouse moral concerns that would otherwise stay dormant.

Draft consent language that will blunt “donor remorse,” which could eventually erode good will and reduce donation rates.

Be as detailed as possible, even at the risk of vexing donors or reducing donation rates. Anything less than full disclosure would be immoral.

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