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In a blow to patient-privacy advocates, the US government has abandoned a plan that would have required scientists to obtain the consent of people who donate biological samples before using the material in subsequent studies.

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had proposed the change in 2015, as part of an overhaul of the ‘Common Rule’, a set of regulations that govern clinical trials and patient consent in research. But the provision was not included in the final version of the rule released on 18 January.

Most of the changes to the 26-year-old Common Rule are intended to lessen the regulatory burden on researchers. They eliminate requirements that researchers obtain individual approval from ethics boards at every institution where a study will be performed, for instance.

The HHS first released its proposed revisions to the Common Rule in September 2015. That version would have required researchers obtain consent from patients before using biological samples such as blood and tissue in studies, even if those specimens could not be identified.

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Nature News

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