Rethinking Therapeutic Misconception in Biobanking – Ambivalence Between Research and Treatment

  • Aaro Mikael Tupasela University of Copenhagen
  • Karoliina Snell University of Helsinki
  • Jose A. Cañada University of Helsinki


Some authors have noted that in biobank re search participants may be guided by what is called therapeutic misconception, whereby participants attribute therapeutic intent to research procedures (Zawati and Knoppers, 2012; Lidz and Appelbaum, 2002).  This article argues that the notion of therapeutic misconception is increasingly less justified when evaluating biobanks. We present four examples taken from recent developments in biobanking to argue why the notion of therapeutic misconception is problematic in that biobanking practices are increasingly seeking to bridge research and treatment in different ways.  In this article we explore examples where the boundary between research and treatment become increasingly blurred, as well as the contextual significance of healthcare systems and their prevailing ideologies in healthcare management. We argue that biobanking practices are challenging the use value, as well as the philosophical and ethical underpinnings for the need to separate research and treatment, and thus the notion of therapeutic misconception in the first place. We call this tension between research and treatment ambivalent research advancement to highlight the difficulties that various actors have in managing such shifts within the healthcare-research systems.