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National academies panel trashes Common Rule proposal

A report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine has said that the federal government should scrap its plans to rewrite the rules for research on human subjects.

The panel addressed proposed changes to what is known as the Common Rule, a set of ethical guidelines for studies that involve human subjects. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a proposal in September 2015 proposing to change the rule, which has not been updated since 1991.

The biggest revisions would change how samples are classified. Under the proposal many more kinds of specimens, such as blood, would be considered identifiable, a reflection of the new capabilities of technologies such as fast genetic sequencing. That would introduce more restrictions on how researchers could use specimens.

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