Ethik in der Medizin 28 (2):91-106 (2016)

Bert Heinrichs
Universität Bonn
Background: Informed consent is a legal as well as ethical prerequisite in clinical research. For dementia research, informed consent can be a problem if subjects with dementia, whose capacity for understanding and thus also decision making might be limited, are to be exam- ined. This might result in exclusion of dementia patients from research, as capacity for understanding and decision making are often equated with the ability for rational decision making. However, this valuation has been criticized at times for attaching too much impor- tance to the cognitive aspect of decision making. Methods: This qualitative study investigates the actual consent procedure of a clini- cal research study in Germany with regard to dementia patients’ subjective and objective understanding of informed consent information. Research participants were ten dementia patients, who volunteered in two clinical research studies, as well as their caregivers. Data were collected by use of semi-structured interviews. Results: It was determined that the patients’ comprehension of informed consent infor- mation was rather limited. However, a number of patients were quite aware of this. In con- trast, all caregivers claimed to have fully understood the provided information, while their objective comprehension was also incomplete. Several participants indicated that they did not attach much importance to the information given in the consent procedure and that their consent did not primarily depend on this information. Rather, participation in the research study for them seemed to be more of a problem-focused coping strategy for dealing with their diagnosis of dementia. Conclusion: For research ethics these results raise the question whether the currently prevailing emphasis on the cognitive aspect of autonomous decision making, i.e., compre- hension, may be too one-sided, and to what extent the “volitional” aspect in giving consent should be given greater consideration.
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DOI 10.1007/s00481-015-0359-3
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Principles of Biomedical Ethics.Tom L. Beauchamp - 1979 - Oxford University Press.

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