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Environment & Climate Change

Do you know where your biobank donations are going?

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FLICKR USER MOONFLOWERDRAGON / FLICKR
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Do you know what's being done with the blood, plasma, tissue or any other samples you hand over to a biobank? Does knowing the intended use of donations help or hinder people’s willingness to donate?

 A new study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and conducted by researchers at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, tried to address these questions.

“We were concerned that folks who were donating their blood or their tissue to biobanks weren’t fully informed of the possible future uses of this tissue and we thought these folks might be interested to know that their tissues could be used in a variety of ways,” co-author of the study Raymond DeVries of the University of Michigan said.

DeVries continued by describing biobanks’ current way of attaining consent from their donators. They thank the person for the donation and maintain that it will be used “in future research to find cures and to promote the health of the population, but we can’t tell you at this point what that research may be.”

But DeVries and his co-author Tom Tomlinson of Michigan State University think understanding where donations are donated may affect people’s willingness to donate.

The study, for example, revealed that people surveyed were less willing to donate if they knew their donation would help develop more safe and effective methods of birth control. Willingness shrunk from 68% to 58% in this case.

The examples they used, however, were hypothetical as the specifics of what biobanks do with donations is unknown.

“Our concern is that the people have moral concerns that really would influence their willingness to donate to biobanks and we think if we’re getting consent for these donations it’s only fair that people understand there are future possible uses and those uses may counter things that they find morally proper,” DeVries said.