While the debate surrounding the status of human organs, gametes, embryos, tissues, blood, and cells (property? person? gift? waste?) continues, the issues surrounding the storage and possible current and future uses of such "materials" need to be addressed. The comprehensive and sensitive articles—"Informed Consent for Genetic Research on Stored Tissue Samples" by Clayton et al1 and "Ethical Aspects of Banking Placental Blood for Bone Marrow Transplantation" by Sugarman et al2—epitomize the complexity of the underlying ethical, legal, and social problems. Donors, patients, and research participants everywhere have become "sources."1 Hence, the need for discussion and clarification.
See also pp 1783 and 1786.
Even though the article by Sugarman et al2 seemingly focuses on a narrower topic, the ethical issues raised—ownership, informed consent, privacy, confidentiality, and access— are common to both genetic research and placental blood banking. Moreover, in the screening of placental blood for donation,
Knoppers BM, Laberge CM. Research and Stored TissuesPersons as Sources, Samples as Persons?. JAMA. 1995;274(22):1806-1807. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03530220072037