Biobanks are in short supply in South Africa, a place whose inhabitants have some of the greatest genetic diversity in the world. These repositories of human tissue, used for health research, could save lives as scientists find links between diseases and population groups – and, possibly, cures to currently untreatable diseases. But in giving consent for researchers to use your tissue, you are in effect also giving consent on behalf of your parents, family members and children – and possibly all those who share your genetics.
Biobanks are “a major advance in terms of science and technology”, says Professor Ames Dhai, director of the Steve Biko Centre for Bioethics at the University of the Witwatersrand.
A bank containing hundreds of thousands, possibly even millions, of samples with the donors’ medical and demographic information would allow scientists to conduct research with the possibility of statistically significant results. This could pave the way for personalised medicine tailored to South Africa’s population.
For more, find the article — originally published in Mail & Guardian — at http://mg.co.za/article/2015-09-03-the-murky-morality-of-biobanking