The Ethics Blog

A blog from the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics (CRB)

Integrity of anonymous donors

In a comment on our Swedish blog (Etikbloggen), Joanna Forsberg asks if her integrity can be breached if a sample that she donated to a biobank is anonymized (so that it cannot be traced to her) and then is reused in new biobank research. Since the sample is not traceable to her, no one can approach her and ask for consent.

I will probably return to this question. I’m inclined to view an anonymized biological sample as a datum of humankind. A coded sample can become a datum of a specific individual, namely, if the code key is employed so that the donor is traced. The anonymous sample, however, cannot even become sample of “me,” since there is no code key. There is only some tissue and general information, like “male, 48 year old.” It does even not make sense, I want to say, then, to talk about my integrity in relation to anonymous samples.

I notice here that my reasoning is a little bit like that of an experimenter talking about what he or she wants to measure in the laboratory. But is my integrity like an experimental variable? Should bioethicists reason as if ethics was an experimental science?

Pär Segerdahl

We think about bioethics : www.ethicsblog.crb.uu.se

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2 Comments

  1. GCP certified trainer Eugene Zadorin

    For example, in Ukraine and Russia, if confidentiality is open then sample without code key become anonymized and patient cann’t use it for his records. More information about bioethics in Eastern Europe in my contacts.

    • Pär Segerdahl

      Thanks for perspectives from Ukraine and Russia!

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