Rights to Compensation for use of Biospecimens: OHRP and FDA Clarify that Waivers of Rights in Informed Consents are not "Exculpatory"

In a Federal Register notice of September 7, 2011,[1] the Office of Human Research Protection (“OHRP”) and the Food and Drug Administration have clarified that a waiver by an individual in an informed consent to compensation for use of his/her biospecimens is not “exculpatory”, and permissible, if worded properly. This Guidance – entitled “Guidance on Exculpatory Language in Informed Consent" – applies to research conducted for purposes of FDA approval, as well as research sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”).

Under current OHRP and FDA regulations, found at 45 C.F.R. § 46.116 and 21 C.F.R. § 50.21, a waiver by a subject in an informed consent is not permissible if it is exculpatory. In the Guidance referred to in the Federal Register notice, OHRP and FDA have clarified that a waiver is only exculpatory – and, hence, impermissible – if it has the “general effect of freeing or appearing to free an individual or entity from responsibility for malpractice or negligence, or from blame, fault or guilt. …” As stated in the Guidance...

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