Consent forms are the principal method for obtaining informed consent from biomedical research participants. The significance of these forms is increasing as more secondary research is undertaken on existing research samples and information, and samples are deposited in biobanks accessible to many researchers. We reviewed a selection of consent forms used in European Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS) and identified four common elements that were found in every consent form. Our analysis showed that only two of the four most commonly found elements in our sample of informed consent forms were required in UK law. This raises questions about what should be put in informed consent forms for research participants. These findings could be beneficial for the formulation of participant information and consent documentation in the future studies.
Analyses of individuals’ genomes — their entire DNA sequence — have increased knowledge about the links between genetics and disease. Anticipated advances in ‘next generation’ DNA-sequencing techniques will see the routine research use of whole genomes, rather than distinct parts, within the next few years. The scientific benefits of genomic research are, however, accompanied by legal and ethical concerns. Despite the assumption that genetic research data can and will be rendered anonymous, participants’ identities can sometimes be elucidated, which could cause data protection legislation to apply. We undertake a timely reappraisal of these laws — particularly new penalties — and identifiability in genomic research.