Background: Concurrent with efforts to establish national and regional biorepositories in Africa is widespread endorsement of ethics committees as stewards of the interests of individual donors and their communities. To date, ethics training programs for IRB members in Botswana have focused on ethical principles and international guidelines rather than on the ethical dimensions of specific medical technologies and research methodologies. Little is known about the knowledge and concerns of current and prospective IRB members in Botswana with respect to export, reuse, storage, and benefit-sharing of biospecimens. Methods: This qualitative study examined perspectives of IRB members in Botswana about the collection and use of biospecimens in research. Forty-one IRB members representing five committees in Botswana participated in discussions groups in March 2013. Transcriptions of audiotapes and field notes were analyzed to identify issues of concern that might be alleviated through education and capacity-building, and areas that required ongoing discussion or additional regulatory guidance. Results: Areas of concern included lack of understanding among patients and providers about the use of biospecimens in clinical care and research; reuse of biospecimens, particularly issues of consent, ownership and decision-making; export of specimens and loss of control over reuse and potential benefits; and felt need for regulatory guidance and IRB-member training. Local belief systems about bodily integrity and strong national identity in the construct of benefits may be at odds with initiatives that involve foreign biorepositories or consider such collections to be global public goods. Conclusion: Education is needed to strengthen IRB-member capacity to review and monitor protocols calling for the collection and use of biospecimens, guided by clear national policy on priority-setting, partnerships, review, and oversight. Engagement with local stakeholders is needed to harmonize fundamentally different ways of understanding the human body and community identity with the aims of contemporary biomedicine.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Issues, ethics and legal aspects
- Health(social science)
- Health Policy