Use of Bodily Tissues in Research – Pacific perspectives from Dunedin, New Zealand

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Olivia Thompson
Jon Anderson
Margaret Chen
Grace Haack
Robert Mane
Tessa Stewart
James Strickland
James Strickland
Jeremy Walthert
Sarah Jutel
Talai Mapusua
Daryl Schwenke
Faafetai Sopoaga
Simon Walker
Rosalina Richards


Pacific, research ethics, tissue banking, tissue donation



Donation of human tissue is essential for biomedical research to improve our understanding of the causes and treatment of diseases. To facilitate this, researchers need to understand what approaches and processes make donation and storage more acceptable for various communities. This study explores the perspectives of Pacific peoples living in Dunedin, New Zealand on the use of human tissues for biomedical research.


In April 2018, four focus groups (total of 18 participants) were held with members of the Pacific community in Dunedin. Each group was demographically different, with groups consisting of; elders of mixed ethnicity, university students, medical doctors and one Tongan group of mixed ages. An open-ended questioning style was used, with specific prompts about participant’s perceptions of the purpose and processes for donating tissues for research and things that might make them more or less likely to donate.


There were a diverse range of views expressed, reflecting the diversity of participants across different ethnicities and ages. While participant responses varied widely in terms of enthusiasm or caution towards different types of donation, similar themes emerged regarding the importance of detailed informed consent, and respect and trust towards both the donors and/or their tissues. The importance of culture and religion on the attitudes or perspectives towards donation was also highlighted. Finally, it was perceived that donation is likely to be more acceptable if researchers are able to explain why their work is meaningful in a Pacific context and adapt to Pacific situations and/or concerns within the research protocols.


For Pacific peoples to derive the most benefit from research initiatives it is important that processes to collect human tissue are respectful of cultural protocols and expectations to support participation. This study provides useful information to support the evolution of guidelines within the NZ research context.

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