It is not a big deal: a qualitative study of clinical biobank donation experience and motives
The success of biobanking is directly linked to the willingness of people to donate their biological materials for research and storage. Ethical issues related to patient consent are an essential component of the current biobanking agenda. The majority of data available are focused on population-based biobanks in USA, Canada and Western Europe. The donation decision process and its ethical applications in clinical populations and populations in countries with other cultural contexts are very limited. This study aimed to evaluate the decision-making experience of the clinical biobank donors, as well as psychological and social motivators and deterrents of this decision and associated ethical risks.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted in two medical institutions, in St Petersburg (Russia), in 2016–2017, among 13 donors of a clinical biobank (pregnant women, cardiac patients, and patients with multiple sclerosis) and three donation organisers—medical specialists involved in recruiting donors for a clinical biobank. Analysis of interview data was based on qualitative content analysis.
Donors of a clinical biobank express beliefs in the absence of risks associated with the donation. The primary motivators for donating to the biobank were: prosocial, indirect reciprocity (response to or anticipation of an act in kind by a third party), intrinsic motivation (to enhance their self-esteem and satisfying their curiosity about the donation process), and comparability with personal values. A high level of trust in biomedical research and the particular physician can contribute to a favourable decision. The overall decision-making process regarding the biobank donation could be described as quick and not based on a careful reading of informed consent documents. The integration of biobank donation decision-making in the process of medical care might prompt patient to donate to biobank without proper consideration. The specific type of therapeutic misconception—the presence of unrealistic hope that donation could provide a direct benefit for a third person in need was discovered.
Patients recruited to a clinical biobank in Russia have virtually no concerns as to the storage of their biomaterials. The donation decision is mainly motivated by prosocial attitudes and other factors that are similar to the motivating factors of blood donation. The fact of going through inpatient treatment and poor differentiation between donation for other people's benefit and for research purposes can make the process of obtaining consent more ethically problematic.