Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Consent and the ethical duty to participate in health data research
  1. Angela Ballantyne1,
  2. G Owen Schaefer2
  1. 1 Department of Primary Health Care and General Practice, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand
  2. 2 Centre for Biomedical Ethics, Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore, Singapore
  1. Correspondence to Dr Angela Ballantyne, Department of Primary Health Care and General Practice, University of Otago, Wellington 6242, New Zealand; angela.ballantyne{at}


The predominant view is that a study using health data is observational research and should require individual consent unless it can be shown that gaining consent is impractical. But recent arguments have been made that citizens have an ethical obligation to share their health information for research purposes. In our view, this obligation is sufficient ground to expand the circumstances where secondary use research with identifiable health information is permitted without explicit subject consent. As such, for some studies the Institutional Review Board/Research Ethics Committee review process should not assess the practicality of gaining consent for data use. Instead the review process should focus on assessing the public good of the research, public engagement and transparency.

  • informed consent
  • research ethics
  • distributive justice

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Contributors Both authors contributed to defining the topic of the paper, undertaking research and literature reviews, developing arguments, drafting and revising the text.

  • Funding Royal Society of New Zealand (Marsden Fund) UOO1515.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Other content recommended for you