oa South African Journal of Bioethics and Law - Biobanks and human health research : balancing progress and protections : research
Biobanks are repositories that store human biological materials and their associated data. They are rapidly becoming part of national and international networks and give rise to unique ethico-regulatory issues. Whether consent is informed and whether this term should be used when specimens are collected for biobank research is questionable. Where risks occur, they are usually social and relate to identifiability. Public trust and confidence are important for the success of this type of research. Consensus is growing that governance of biobanks should be harmonised. Controlled specimen and data access agreements are essential. The South African National Health Act (NHA) and its Regulations, that provide the foundation for the legal framework with regard to human tissue and research in South Africa, are silent on the issue of biobanks and the law lags behind while science and technology advance rapidly. The use of biobank assets will lead to significant benefits in human health and should be encouraged while taking account of the associated ethical, legal and social issues and working towards a balance between these two positions.
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