Informed Consent and Biospecimens

In recent years, there has been a lot of emphasis on the use of biospecimens in research. Informed consent should be taken before taking biospecimens during the medical procedure, yet sometimes it  is important to explain what biospecimens are and where they are kept in research.

What are biospecimens?

Biospecimens are materials taken from the human body, such as tissue, blood, plasma, and urine that can be used for cancer diagnosis and analysis. When patients have a biopsy, surgery, or other procedure, often a small amount of the specimen removed can be stored and used for later research. Once these samples have been properly processed and stored they are known as human biospecimens. Doctors and researchers may analyze biospecimens to look for indications of disease in the donor.

What are biorepositories?

Biorepositories (or biobanks) are “libraries” where biospecimens are stored and made available for scientists to study for clinical or research purposes.

Ethical issues regarding the use of biospecimens:

The use of those biospecimens requires a clear informed consent process. A research by Yasmin Isler titled “Pre-Procedure Consent Process vs. Post-Procedure Consent Process for Biorepository Sample Acquisition: A Prospective Survey at the Time of Pre-Admission” was conducted to investigate the type of informed consent patients prefer regarding the use of their biospecimens for research purposes. The two types suggested by the investigator were a pre or post procedure informed consent. Results showed that 98% of patient preferred a pre procedure informed consent and 2% preferred the post procedure informed consent. On the other hand, all patients wanted a clear informed consent that was understandable and explanatory. I believe this shows the importance of the informed consent process for research participants.


Sara Lavinia is an associate professor of community medicine, working at Al Neelain University in Sudan. Sara has experience in teaching research methodology and doing research.


Isler,Y. Pre-procedure Consent Process vs. Post-procedure Consent Process for Biorepository Sample Acquisition: A Prospective Survey at the Time of Pre Admission. (Online). Available from: file:///C:/Users/Admin/Downloads/_%20Public%20Responsibility%20in%20Medicine%20and%20Research%20(2).pdf. Accessed: 16.1.2015.

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