Consent for the use of human biological samples for biomedical research: a mixed methods study exploring the UK public’s preferences
- BMJ Open
Author/s: -Lewis, Celine -Clotworthy, Margaret -Hilton, Shona -Magee, Caroline -Robertson, Mark J -Stubbins, Lesley J -Corfield, Julie
Journal: BMJ Open
Objective A mixed-methods study exploring the UK general public’s views towards consent for the use of biosamples for biomedical research.Setting Cross-sectional population-based focus groups followed by an online survey.Participants 12 focus groups (81 participants) selectively sampled to reflect a range of demographic groups; 1110 survey responders recruited through a stratified sampling method with quotas set on sex, age, geographical location, socioeconomic group and ethnicity.Main outcome measures (1) Views on the importance of consent when donating residual biosamples for medical research; (2) preferences for opt-in or opt-out consent approaches and (3) preferences for different consent models.Results Participants believed obtaining consent for use of residual biosamples was important as it was ‘morally correct’ to ask, and enabled people to make an active choice and retain control over their biosamples. Survey responders preferred opt-in consent (55%); the strongest predictor was being from a low socioeconomic group (OR 2.22, 95% CI 1.41 to 3.57, p=0.001) and having a religious affiliation (OR 1.36, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.81, p=0.04). Focus group participants had a slight preference for opt-out consent because by using this approach more biosamples would be available and facilitate research. Concerning preferred models of consent for research use of biosamples, survey responders preferred specific consent with recontact for each study for which their biosamples are eligible. Focus group participants preferred generic consent as it provided ‘flexibility for researchers’ and reduced the likelihood that biosamples would be wasted. The strongest predictor for preferring specific consent was preferring opt-in consent (OR 4.58, 95% CI 3.30 to 6.35, p=0.015) followed by non-‘White’ ethnicity (OR 2.94, 95% CI 1.23 to 7.14, p<0.001).Conclusions There is a preference among the UK public for ongoing choice and control over donated biosamples; however, increased knowledge and opportunity for discussion is associated with acceptance of less restrictive consent models for some people.