With the growth of precision medicine research on health data and biospecimens, research institutions will need to build and maintain long-term, trusting relationships with patient-participants. While trust is important for all research relationships, the longitudinal nature of precision medicine research raises particular challenges for facilitating trust when the specifics of future studies are unknown. Based on focus groups with racially and ethnically diverse patients, we describe several factors that influence patient trust and potential institutional approaches to building trustworthiness. Drawing on (...) these findings, we suggest several considerations for research institutions seeking to cultivate long-term, trusting relationships with patients: Address the role of history and experience on trust, engage concerns about potential group harm, address cultural values and communication barriers, and integrate patient values and expectations into oversight and governance structures. (shrink)
Different types of consent are used to obtain human biospecimens for future research. This variation has resulted in confusion regarding what research is permitted, inadvertent constraints on future research, and research proceeding without consent. The National Institutes of Health Clinical Center's Department of Bioethics held a workshop to consider the ethical acceptability of addressing these concerns by using broad consent for future research on stored biospecimens. Multiple bioethics scholars, who have written on these issues, discussed the reasons for consent, the (...) range of consent strategies, and gaps in our understanding, and concluded with a proposal for broad initial consent coupled with oversight and, when feasible, ongoing provision of information to donors. This article describes areas of agreement and areas that need more research and dialogue. Given recent proposed changes to the Common Rule, and new guidance regarding storing and sharing data and samples, this is an important and tim.. (shrink)
No consensus yet exists on how to handle incidental fnd-ings in human subjects research. Yet empirical studies document IFs in a wide range of research studies, where IFs are fndings beyond the aims of the study that are of potential health or reproductive importance to the individual research participant. This paper reports recommendations of a two-year project group funded by NIH to study how to manage IFs in genetic and genomic research, as well as imaging research. We conclude that researchers (...) have an obligation to address the possibility of discovering IFs in their protocol and communications with the IRB, and in their consent forms and communications with research participants. Researchers should establish a pathway for handling IFs and communicate that to the IRB and research participants. We recommend a pathway and categorize IFs into those that must be disclosed to research participants, those that may be disclosed, and those that should not be disclosed. (shrink)
The increasing complexity of human subjects research and its oversight has prompted researchers, as well as institutional review boards, to have a forum in which to discuss challenging or novel ethical issues not fully addressed by regulations. Research ethics consultation services provide such a forum. In this article, we rely on the experiences of a national Research Ethics Consultation Collaborative that collected more than 350 research ethics consultations in a repository and published 18 challenging cases with accompanying ethical commentaries to (...) highlight four contexts in which REC can be a valuable resource. REC assists: 1) investigators before and after the regulatory review; 2) investigators, IRBs, and other research administrators facing challenging and novel ethical issues; 3) IRBs and investigators with the increasing challenges of informed consent and risk/benefit analysis; and 4) in providing flexible and collaborative assistance to overcome study hurdles, mediate conflicts within a team, or directly engage with research participants. Institutions that have established, or plan to establish, REC services should work to raise the visibility of their service and engage in open communication with existing clinical ethics consult services as well as the IRB. While the IRB system remains the foundation for the ethical review of research, REC can be a valuable service for investigators, regulators, and research participants aligned with the goal of supporting ethical research. (shrink)
Investigators and institutional review boards should integrate plans about the appropriate disclosure of individual genetic results when designing research studies. The ethical principles of beneficence, respect, reciprocity, and justice provide justification for routinely offering certain results to research participants. We propose a result-evaluation approach that assesses the expected information and the context of the study in order to decide whether results should be offered. According to this approach, the analytic validity and the clinical utility of a specific result determine whether (...) it should be offered routinely. Different results may therefore require different decisions even within the same study. We argue that the threshold of clinical utility for disclosing a result in a research study should be lower than the threshold used for clinical use of the same result. The personal meaning of a result provides additional criteria for evaluation. Finally, the context of the study allows for a more nuanced analysis by addressing the investigators' capabilities for appropriate disclosure, participants' alternative access to the result, and their relationship with the investigators. This analysis shows that the same result may require different decisions in different contexts. (shrink)
We conducted focus groups to assess patient attitudes toward research on medical practices in the context of usual care. We found that patients focus on the implications of this research for their relationship with and trust in their physicians. Patients view research on medical practices as separate from usual care, demanding dissemination of information and in most cases, individual consent. Patients expect information about this research to come through their physician, whom they rely on to identify and filter associated risks. (...) In general, patients support this research, but worry that participation in research involving randomization may undermine individualized care that acknowledges their unique medical histories. These findings suggest the need for public education on variation in practice among physicians and the need for a collaborative approach to the governance of research on medical practices that addresses core values of trust, transparency, and partnership. (shrink)
While the bioethics literature demonstrates that the field has spent substantial time and thought over the last four decades on the goals, methods, and desired outcomes for service and training in bioethics, there has been less progress defining the nature and goals of bioethics research and scholarship. This gap makes it difficult both to describe the breadth and depth of these areas of bioethics and, importantly, to gauge their success. However, the gap also presents us with an opportunity to define (...) this scope of work for ourselves and to help shape the broader conversation about the impact of academic research. Because of growing constraints on academic funding, researchers and scholars in many fields are being asked to demonstrate and also forecast the value and impact of their work. To do that, and also to satisfy ourselves that our work has meaningful effect, we must understand how our work can motivate change and how that change can be meaningfully measured. In a field as diverse as bioethics, the pathways to and metrics of change will likewise be diverse. It is therefore critical that any assessment of the impact of bioethics research and scholarship be informed by an understanding of the nature of the work, its goals, and how those goals can and ought to be furthered. In this paper, we propose a conceptual model that connects individual bioethics projects to the broader goals of scholarship, describing the translation of research and scholarly output into changes in thinking, practice, and policy. One of the key implications of the model is that impact in bioethics is generally the result of a collection of projects rather than of any single piece of research or scholarship. Our goal is to lay the groundwork for a thoroughgoing conversation about bioethics research and scholarship that will advance and shape the important conversation about their impact. (shrink)
It is unclear whether the regulatory distinction between non-identifiable and identifiable information—information used to determine informed consent practices for the use of clinically derived samples for genetic research—is meaningful to patients. The objective of this study was to examine patients' attitudes and preferences regarding use of anonymous and identifiable clinical samples for genetic research. Telephone interviews were conducted with 1,193 patients recruited from general medicine, thoracic surgery, or medical oncology clinics at five United States academic medical centers. Wanting to know (...) about research being done was important to 72% of patients when samples would be anonymous and to 81% of patients when samples would be identifiable. Only 17% wanted to know about the identifiable scenario but not the anonymous scenario. Curiosity-based reasons were the most common among patients who wanted to know about anonymous samples. Of patients wanting to know about either scenario, approximately 57% would require researchers to seek permission, whereas 43% would be satisfied with notification only. Patients were more likely to support permission in the anonymous scenario if they had more education, were Black, less religious, in better health, more private, and less trusting of researchers. The sample, although not representative of the general population, does represent patients at academic medical centers whose clinical samples may be used for genetic research. Few patients expressed preferences consistent with the regulatory distinction between non-identifiable and identifiable information. Data from this study should cause policy-makers to question whether this distinction is useful in relation to research with previously collected clinically derived samples. (shrink)
Caregivers should usually accede to parents’ requests for life-sustaining treatment. For such decision-making, the best interests standard is too limited. John Arras’s “relational potential standard,” con-joined to a contemporary care ethics framework, provides a better guide.
The Office of Human Research Protections was not justified in issuing findings against the SUPPORT Institutions. Our community can learn from the evolving healthcare transformation into learning health systems by thinking about the novel ethical issues about standard of care research raised by the SUPPORT with the same spirit of quality improvement. The current regulatory framework and the concept of foreseeable research risks is insufficient to advance the debate about the ethics of randomization of standard clinical interventions. This article uses (...) the example of the Wisconsin cystic fibrosis randomized clinical trial for newborn screening trial to explore the distinctions between risks of research and clinical care and waivers of informed consent for randomization. Collaborative exploration of these complex policy issues is needed and further deliberation, community engagement, and social science research will be critical to advance novel approaches for informed consent. (shrink)
Decisions regarding life-sustaining medical treatments for young children with profound disabilities can be extremely challenging for families and clinicians. In this study, Brick and colleagues1 surveyed adult residents of the UK about their attitudes regarding withdrawal of treatment using a series of vignettes of infants with varying levels of intellectual and physical disability, based on real and hypothetical cases.1 This is an interesting study on an important topic. We first highlight the limitations of using these survey data to inform public (...) policy and then offer a different interpretation from the authors’ regarding their findings about the value the public appears to place on relational capacity. The authors asked members of the lay public to interpret a disabled child’s best interest in a series of vignettes. The respondents were 92% white; 59% were atheist or reported no religious affiliation. Though the authors note this lack of diversity as a limitation, we would add that this limitation is particularly problematic in this context. Minority views on this issue may differ significantly from the majority perspective. When the stakes are high, use of public opinion data to directly inform policy requires, at a minimum, a representative sample reflecting both the true diversity of views within the public and a method to justly account for the alternate views of the minority. Even if the sampled population were more …. (shrink)
The approach to incidental research fndings in children emerges by considering the child-parent relationship and balancing divergent interests and preferences. Incidental fndings with clear and proximate clinical importance should be disclosed to both. We recommend that particularly sensitive or private information should be disclosed to the adolescent frst, while particularly serious information should frst be disclosed to the parent. These approaches allow the researcher to form an alliance with one party prior to engaging the other. However, unlike clinical settings, where (...) there may be presumptive expectations of confdentiality about sharing information within the family, in most research settings it is reasonable to plan to disclose such information to both parties. It is important to communicate this plan during the informed consent process separately to adolescents to avoid enrolling adolescents when sensitive incidental fndings such as pregnancy and drug use may be detected. The approach to incidental fndings without clear and proximate beneft is challenging. Researchers should plan more limited disclosure of such incidental fndings for pediatric participants than for adult participants. (shrink)
Genomic research results and incidental findings with health implications for a research participant are of potential interest not only to the participant, but also to the participant's family. Yet investigators lack guidance on return of results to relatives, including after the participant's death. In this paper, a national working group offers consensus analysis and recommendations, including an ethical framework to guide investigators in managing this challenging issue, before and after the participant's death.