Genetic relatedness poses significant challenges to traditional practices of medical ethics as concerns the biobanking of human biological samples. In this paper, we first outline the ethical challenges to informed consent and confidentiality as these apply to human biobanks, irrespective of the type of tissue being stored. We argue that the shared nature of genetic information has clear implications for informed consent, and the identifying nature of biological samples and information has clear implications for promises of confidentiality. Next, with regard to the special case of biobanking human embryos and eggs, we consider issues arising from: first, the type of tissues being stored; second, the use to which these tissues are put; and third, how this plays out given the shared and identifying nature of these tissues. Specifically, we examine the differences between human bodily tissues and human reproductive tissues focusing on the assumed potential of the reproductive tissues and on the possible greater emotional attachment to these tissues because of their real and imagined kinship. For some donors there may be a sense of family connection with embryos and eggs they once thought of as ‘children-in-waiting’. Finally, we conclude by considering the implications for ethical practice.
- Long-term storage