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Human Biological Material for Research

The working group on Human Biological Material was established to examine the ethical issues relating to the collection, use, storage and disposal of human biological material in research.

On 29 June 2005, the Council published the report Human Biological Material: Recommendations for Collection, Use and Storage in Research 2005.

Informed consent is a key element in the ethical conduct of research involving human biological samples and forms the basis of the report. Other important issues discussed in the document include confidentiality and privacy, the commercialisation of human biological material, intellectual property rights, patenting and the storage and disposal of biological material. The Council hopes that the report will assist in the formulation of an ethical framework for those actively involved in the use of human biological materials in research and encourage further discussion and debate of the complex issues surrounding the use of human biological samples in research. 

Pictured at the launch of the report (left to right): Mr Asim Sheikh, Chairperson of the working group; An Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Ms Mary Harney T.D.; and Mr Dermot Gleeson, Chairperson of the Irish Council for Bioethics.

Public Consultation


To assist their deliberations the working group on Human Biological Materials engaged in a public consultation exercise entitled “The Question of Biological Material for Research” in July 2003. The working group received over one hundred submissions from both the general public and professional organisations. An analysis of the results was included as an appendix to the final report. A number of Healthcare professionals and organisations have kindly granted permission for their submissions to be made available on our website. View submissions...

Terms of Reference


1. To identify and report on the specific scientific and medical research uses made of human biological material
2. To identify ethical and legal questions arising from the collection, use, storage and disposal of human biological material
3. To evaluate the public’s perception of human biological material and to inform the public in relation to the current and potential benefits and difficulties arising from the use of such research material
4. To produce a set of recommendations with respect to the collection, use, storage and disposal of biological materials for researchers and those individuals/institutions evaluating research

Working Group Members


Mr. Asim A. Sheikh BL, Chairperson (as of July 2004)
Division of Legal Medicine, University College Dublin
Professor Mark Lawler (Chairperson until July 2004)
Department of Genetics, Trinity College Dublin and Trinity College Health Sciences Centre, St. James Hospital
Professor Patrick Cunningham
Department of Genetics, Trinity College Dublin
Dr Dolores Dooley
Department of Philosophy, National University of Ireland, Cork
Dr Brian Farrell
Dublin City Coroner, Coroners’ Society of Ireland
Dr Patrick Flanagan
Formerly, Environmental Protection Agency
Professor Andrew Green
National Centre for Medical Genetics, Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, Dublin
Dr Peter McKenna
Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Rotunda Hospital, Dublin
Mr Matt Moran
Irish BioIndustry Association
Ms Mary Mulvihill
Science Editor and Consultant
Dr Seán O’Briain
Faculty of Pathology, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland
Ms. Mary Duffy (until December 2003)
Patient Focus
Ms. Sheila O’Connor (as of July 2004)
Patient Focus
Professor Ronan O’Regan
Department of Human Anatomy and Physiology, University College Dublin
Dr. Siobhán O’Sullivan
Irish Council for Bioethics
Dr David Smith
Department of General Practice, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Professor Robert Stout
Research and Development for the Northern Ireland Health and Personal Social Services