Developing model biobanking consent language: what matters to prospective participants?

Developing model biobanking consent language: what matters to prospective participants?
Research Article
Laura M. Beskow, Catherine M. Hammack-Aviran, Kathleen M. Brelsford
BMC Medical Research Methodology, 15 May 2020; 20(119)
Open Access
Efforts to improve informed consent have led to calls for providing information a reasonable person would want to have, in a way that facilitates understanding of the reasons why one might or might not want to participate. At the same time, advances in large-scale genomic research have expanded both the opportunities and the risks for participants, families, and communities. To advance the use of effective consent materials that reflect this landscape, we used empirical data to develop model consent language, as well as brief questions to assist people in thinking about their own values relative to participation.
We conducted in-person interviews to gather preliminary input on these materials from a diverse sample (n = 32) of the general population in Nashville, Tennessee. We asked them to highlight information they found especially reassuring or concerning, their hypothetical willingness to participate, and their opinions about the values questions.
Consent information most often highlighted as reassuring included the purpose of the biobank, the existence and composition of a multidisciplinary oversight committee, the importance of participants’ privacy and efforts to protect it, and controlled access to a scientific database. Information most often highlighted as concerning included the deposition of data in a publicly accessible database, the risk of unintended access to data, the potential for non-research use of data, and use of medical record information in general. Seventy-five percent of participants indicated initial willingness to participate in the hypothetical biobank; this decreased to 66% as participants more closely considered the information over the course of the interview. A large majority rated the values questions as helpful.
These results are consistent with other research on public perspectives on biobanking and genomic cohort studies, suggesting that our model language effectively captures commonly expressed reasons for and against participation. Our study enriches this literature by connecting specific consent form disclosures with qualitative data regarding what participants found especially reassuring or concerning and why. Interventions that facilitate individuals’ closer engagement with consent information may result in participation decisions more closely aligned with their values.

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