Informed Consent and Protection of Personal Data in Genetic Research on COVID-19

Informed Consent and Protection of Personal Data in Genetic Research on COVID-19
Piergiorgio Fedeli, Roberto Scendoni, Mariano Cingolani, Marcelo Corrales Compagnucci, Roberto Cirocchi, Nunzia Cannovo
Healthcare, 11 February 2022; 10(349)
Open Access
Abstract
The particular characteristics of COVID-19 demand the careful biomedical study of samples from patients who have shown different symptomatology, in order to understand the genetic foundations of its phenotypic expression. Research on genetic material from COVID-19 patients is indispensable for understanding the biological bases for its varied clinical manifestations. The issue of “informed consent” constitutes the crux of the problem in regulating research biobanks, because it concerns the relationship between the person and the parts separated from the body. There are several consensus models that can be adopted, varying from quite restricted models of specific informed consent to forms that allow very broad authorization (open consent). Our current understanding of COVID-19 is incomplete. Thus, we cannot plan, with precision, the research to be conducted on biological samples that have been, or will be, collected from patients infected by the novel coronavirus. Therefore, we suggest utilizing the “participation pact” between researchers and donors, based on a new form of participation in research, which offers a choice based on the principles of solidarity and reciprocity, which represent the communication of “values”. In the last part of this paper, the general data protection regulation concerning the matter is discussed. The treatment of personal data must be performed with explicit goals, and donors must be provided with a clear, transparent explanation of the methods, goals and time of storage. The data must not be provided to unauthorized subjects. In conclusion, open informed consent forms will be necessary for research on individual patients and on populations.

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