Accountability, Governance and Biobanks: The Ethics and Governance Committee as Guardian or Toothless Tiger

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Colleges, School and Institutes


The huge potential of biobanks/genetic databases for the research community has been recognised across jurisdictions in both publicly funded and commercial sectors. But although there is tremendous potential there are likewise potential difficulties. The long-term storage of personal health information and samples poses major challenges. This is an area is fraught with ethical and legal uncertainties. Biobanks raise many questions of the control of rights, of consent, of privacy and confidentiality and of property in human material. It is thus unsurprising then that there has been a lively debate as to how biobanks should operate, the boundaries of participation and what governance structure, if any they should adopt, a debate which has been engaged in across the academic community and by funders and researchers alike. This paper asks despite the good intentions can ad hoc ethics and ethics and governance committees long term provide an effective solution to the legal and regulatory challenges arising from biobanks.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-246
Number of pages16
JournalHealth Care Analysis
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011