The November 2008 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology included an article addressing an Indiana University study which sought to ascertain the willingness of women to donate DNA specimens. The article, “Patient Attitudes Toward Genotyping in an Urban Women’s Health Clinic” (David M. Haas, Jamie L. Renbarger, Eric M. Meslin, Katherine Drabiak, and David Flockhart), acknowledges the great promise of the emerging fields of genotype association studies and pharmacogenetics, which will theoretically allow for targeted medical interventions, personalized drug therapies and the more efficient allocation of healthcare resources. The study compared women’s willingness to donate DNA specimens via blood and saliva collection, and looked at several other factors to confirm the findings of previous studies regarding which of those factors predicate a willingness to donate. The authors found that more women are willing to donate DNA using saliva than blood, and that higher levels of education (college and beyond) and greater knowledge of genes and DNA increase women’s willingness to donate.
So how do these findings translate into ethical practice? How will they inform the future collection of samples for both medical and research purposes? It seems that researchers and practitioners should bear in mind that less-invasive methods of DNA procurement are preferred, and that education about purpose and use be stressed during the informed consent process. When asked about the translational implications of this study, Dr. Eric Meslin, co-author and Director of the Indiana University Center for Bioethics, said: “the key to success in any biobanking effort lies in the scientific community’s ability to both acquire and maintain the public’s trust. Informed consent may be evidence of the public’s willingness to permit specimens to be used for research, but consent should never be confused with the public’s willingness to trust science to do the right thing.” -Amy Lewis Gilbert