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Posts tagged ‘ethics’

It’s time to recognise the benefits of medical data use

Using medical data may help improve public health services and help identify patterns of disease, which could lead to more effective practices for prevention. Our head of clinical ethics and data, Dr Jon Fistein, argues that we should say more about these benefits.

It is widely recognised that routinely-collected health data can be used to improve the healthcare provided to individuals and to communities. The US Institute of Medicine champions the ‘learning healthcare system’ in which routinely-collected data are used to drive better, more efficient medical practice and patient care. Indeed, many argue that such uses of data are the only ways to improve services, reduce waste and make health service provision sustainable.

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Getting the best out of biological samples

Tissue samples stored in microscope slides

Tissue samples (Image: euthman on Flickr under CC BY-SA 2.0)

Hundreds of thousands of biological samples such as blood, urine and tissue blocks are kept in research institutions and hospitals across the UK. Within them may lie the answers to some of the biggest questions in medical research. Getting the best out of samples relies on donors understanding what they may be used for and researchers feeling confident about when they can use and share them. Here Professor James Ironside, Professor of Clinical Neuropathology at the University of Edinburgh, tells us about new MRC guidance on the practicalities and ethics of using biological samples.

“It’s better not to restrict the possible use of the sample because by restricting it you’re increasing the chance that it’ll go to waste. You want the highest probability that something good will come from it.”

Those are the words of a patient surveyed about the public’s views on the use of biological samples in medical research [1]. So how do we go about increasing the chances that samples will be useful?

Samples of human biological material have always been crucial to medical research, but as we move into an era in which huge amounts of data can be analysed easily, getting the best out of each and every sample is becoming more important than ever. Read more