Open Access Debate

Bridging consent: from toll bridges to lift bridges?

Isabelle Budin-Ljøsne1*, Anne Marie Tassé2, Bartha Maria Knoppers2 and Jennifer R Harris1

Author Affiliations

1 Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Division of Epidemiology, Department of Genes and Environment, P.O Box 4404 Nydalen, NO-0403 Oslo, Norway

2 Centre of Genomics and Policy, McGill University, 740 Dr Penfield Avenue, suite 5202, Montreal (Quebec) H3A 1A4, Canada

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BMC Medical Genomics 2011, 4:69  doi:10.1186/1755-8794-4-69

Published: 4 October 2011



The ability to share human biological samples, associated data and results across disease-specific and population-based human research biobanks is becoming increasingly important for research into disease development and translation. Although informed consent often does not anticipate such cross-domain sharing, it is important to examine its plausibility. The purpose of this study was to explore the feasibility of bridging consent between disease-specific and population-based research. Comparative analyses of 1) current ethical and legal frameworks governing consent and 2) informed consent models found in disease-specific and population-based research were conducted.


Ethical and legal frameworks governing consent dissuade cross-domain data sharing. Paradoxically, analysis of consent models for disease-specific and population-based research reveals such a high degree of similarity that bridging consent could be possible if additional information regarding bridging was incorporated into consent forms. We submit that bridging of consent could be supported if current trends endorsing a new interpretation of consent are adopted. To illustrate this we sketch potential bridging consent scenarios.


A bridging consent, respectful of the spirit of initial consent, is feasible and would require only small changes to the content of consents currently being used. Under a bridging consent approach, the initial data and samples collection can serve an identified research project as well as contribute to the creation of a resource for a range of other projects.