Op-Ed Contributor: Your Cells. Their Research. Your Permission?

link to source
The New York Times.

Op-Ed Contributor By REBECCA SKLOOT December 30, 2015

JEFFREY GRAY, a professor at Des Moines University, recently instructed a room full of medical students to take out their phones. Unlock them, he said. Now pass them to the person behind you. They looked at him like, Are you nuts? They wanted to know, Why? What will they look at? How will they use that information?

“In other words, they wanted to be informed, and they wanted to give consent,” Dr. Gray said later. Now imagine those phones are cells in your body containing all the genetic information that makes you you, he told the students. Do you want scientists to pass them around and use them in research without your consent? Because right now, they can.

This often surprises people: Tissues from millions of Americans are used in research without their knowledge. These “clinical biospecimens” are leftovers from blood tests, biopsies and surgeries. If your identity is removed, scientists don’t have to ask your permission to use them. How people feel about this varies depending on everything from their relationship to their DNA to how they define life and death. Many bioethicists aren’t bothered…

Continue reading here.