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Public opinion on the use of tissue samples
  1. D M Berney1
  1. 1Department of Pathology, St Bartholomew’s Hospital, West Smithfield, London EC1A 7BE, UK;

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    I read with interest and increasing concern the paper by Goodson and Vernon,1 “A study of public opinion on the use of tissue samples from living subjects for clinical research”. The paper demonstrates that the use of a vaguely worded and ambiguous questionnaire leads to misleading results. A few of the problems with the questions may be taken individually:

    1. “Would you be happy for pieces of any of the following body tissues or organs to be used in clinical research? (Eyes, lung, heart, tissue from head and neck, embryo, brain, ovary, testes, bone, and breast.)”

    The question could refer to postmortem tissue and the choice of organs is (as the authors confess) deliberately “emotional”, with no insight into every day pathological services. Heart, brain, and eyes are not exactly common surgical specimens, whereas embryos are subject to special guidelines. Surely, this question is almost designed to make the patient believe it refers to postmortem organs? The use of subjective words such as “happy” is extremely unhelpful. “Are you happy to vote Labour?” would not, for example, be …

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