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The collection and storage of human tissue for medical research is not a new phenomenon. Neither is medical research interest in genetic heritage new, although before the relatively recent advances in genetic science and technology this interest was expressed in terms of family history. A medical practitioner could expect questions about a patients’ family medical history to be taken as a sign of their thoroughness and care. Such inquiries are perhaps accepted as benign or benevolent because they are like a natural extension of common civil greetings; such as ‘How are you?' and ‘How is your family?' But with the rapid advances in the human genetic sciences and the emergence of biobanks (and their potential links to other databases) the medical practitioner’s inquiry could end up sounding more sinister.

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