Will new Swedish rules for research registers enable LifeGene to continue?

In December 2011, the Swedish Data Inspection Board (DI) decided that the large biobank investment LifeGene is against the law.

In its motivation, DI focused on the purpose of the data collection and the information to participants about this purpose. According to DI, LifeGene’s purpose – “future research” – is too unspecific to be in accordance with the Personal Data Act.

Yesterday (February 28), the Swedish government announced new rules for research registers. These rules are supposed to enable LifeGene to continue. If you read Swedish, you might want to study the government’s press release.

I am not a legal expert, but it seems to me that even if the government’s new rules can make LifeGene lawful as a research register, other laws become relevant when the register is being used in research… for example, the Personal Data Act, surveyed by DI.

I happen to believe that LifeGene’s purpose can be interpreted as being sufficiently specific even for the demands of the Personal Data Act. LifeGene does not bluntly state “future research” as its purpose, but specifies the kind of diseases that will be studied, as well as the goal of creating new tools to prevent, diagnose, and treat these diseases.

Karolinska Institutet (that administers LifeGene) has appealed against DI’s decision to stop LifeGene. If DI does not withdraw its decision, my uncertain layman guess is that the result of this legal process might still be relevant for the possibility of continuing LifeGene as planned.

Pär Segerdahl

Following the news - the ethics blog