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Ethical aspects of registry-based research in the Nordic countries

Authors Ludvigsson JF, Håberg SE, Knudsen GP, Lafolie P, Zoega H, Sarkkola C, von Kraemer S, Weiderpass E, Nørgaard M

Received 16 June 2015

Accepted for publication 4 September 2015

Published 23 November 2015 Volume 2015:7 Pages 491—508


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Ivy Shiue

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Vera Ehrenstein

Jonas F Ludvigsson,1,2 Siri E Håberg,3 Gun Peggy Knudsen,3 Pierre Lafolie,4,5 Helga Zoega,6 Catharina Sarkkola,7 Stephanie von Kraemer,7 Elisabete Weiderpass,1,7–10 Mette Nørgaard11

1Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, 2Department of Pediatrics, Örebro University Hospital, Örebro, Sweden; 3Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway; 4Department of Medicine, Clinical Pharmacology Unit, 5The Stockholm Regional Ethical Review Board, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden; 6Center of Public Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Iceland, Reykjavík, Iceland; 7Genetic Epidemiology Group, Folkhälsan Research Center, Helsinki, Finland; 8Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Tromsø, 9The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, 10Department of Research, Cancer Registry of Norway, Oslo, Norway; 11Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark

Abstract: National health care registries in the Nordic countries share many attributes, but different legal and ethical frameworks represent a challenge to promoting effective joint research. Internationally, there is a lack of knowledge about how ethical matters are considered in Nordic registry-based research, and a lack of knowledge about how Nordic ethics committees operate and what is needed to obtain an approval. In this paper, we review ethical aspects of registry-based research, the legal framework, the role of ethics review boards in the Nordic countries, and the structure of the ethics application. We discuss the role of informed consent in registry-based research and how to safeguard the integrity of study participants, including vulnerable subjects and children. Our review also provides information on the different government agencies that contribute registry-based data, and a list of the major health registries in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Both ethical values and conditions for registry-based research are similar in the Nordic countries. While Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden have chosen different legal frameworks, these differences can be resolved through mutual recognition of ethical applications and by harmonizing the different systems, likely leading to increased collaboration and enlarged studies.

Keywords: ethical review, ethics, institutional review board, Nordic countries, registry-based research, informed consent

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