Assessment of parental decision-making in neonatal cardiac research: a pilot study

Journal of Medical Ethics 36 (2):106-110 (2010)
Abstract
Objective To assess parental permission for a neonate's research participation using the MacArthur competence assessment tool for clinical research (MacCAT-CR), specifically testing the components of understanding, appreciation, reasoning and choice. Study Design Quantitative interviews using study-specific MacCAT-CR tools. Hypothesis Parents of critically ill newborns would produce comparable MacCAT-CR scores to healthy adult controls despite the emotional stress of an infant with critical heart disease or the urgency of surgery. Parents of infants diagnosed prenatally would have higher MacCAT-CR scores than parents of infants diagnosed postnatally. There would be no difference in MacCAT-CR scores between parents with respect to gender or whether they did or did not permit research participation. Participants Parents of neonates undergoing cardiac surgery who had made decisions about research participation before their neonate's surgery. Methods The MacCAT-CR. Results 35 parents (18 mothers; 17 fathers) of 24 neonates completed 55 interviews for one or more of three studies. Total scores: magnetic resonance imaging (mean 36.6, SD 7.71), genetics (mean 38.8, SD 3.44), heart rate variability (mean 37.7, SD 3.30). Parents generally scored higher than published subject populations and were comparable to published control populations with some exceptions. Conclusions The MacCAT-CR can be used to assess parental permission for neonatal research participation. Despite the stress of a critically ill neonate requiring surgery, parents were able to understand study-specific information and make informed decisions to permit their neonate's participation
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