Background The rise in genomic and biobanking research worldwide has led to the development of different informed consent models for use in such research. This study analyses consent documents used by investigators in the H3Africa (Human Heredity and Health in Africa) Consortium. Methods A qualitative method for text analysis was used to analyse consent documents used in the collection of samples and data in H3Africa projects. Thematic domains included type of consent model, explanations of genetics/genomics, data sharing and feedback of (...) test results. Results Informed consent documents for 13 of the 19 H3Africa projects were analysed. Seven projects used broad consent, five projects used tiered consent and one used specific consent. Genetics was mostly explained in terms of inherited characteristics, heredity and health, genes and disease causation, or disease susceptibility. Only one project made provisions for the feedback of individual genetic results. Conclusion H3Africa research makes use of three consent models—specific, tiered and broad consent. We outlined different strategies used by H3Africa investigators to explain concepts in genomics to potential research participants. To further ensure that the decision to participate in genomic research is informed and meaningful, we recommend that innovative approaches to the informed consent process be developed, preferably in consultation with research participants, research ethics committees and researchers in Africa. (shrink)
Community engagement has been recognised as an important aspect of the ethical conduct of biomedical research, especially when research is focused on ethnically or culturally distinct populations. While this is a generally accepted tenet of biomedical research, it is unclear what components are necessary for effective community engagement, particularly in the context of genomic research in Africa.
BackgroundCommunity engagement within biomedical research is broadly defined as a collaborative relationship between a research team and a group of individuals targeted for research. A Community Advisory Board is one mechanism of engaging the community. Within genomics research CABs may be particularly relevant due to the potential implications of research findings drawn from individual participants on the larger communities they represent. Within such research, CABs seek to meet instrumental goals such as protecting research participants and their community from research-related risks, (...) as well as intrinsic goals such as promoting the respect of participants and their community. However, successful community engagement depends on the degree to which CABs legitimately represent and engage with communities targeted for research. Currently, there is little literature describing the use of CABs in genomics research taking place in developing countries, and even less in the field of genomics research relating to mental illness. The aim of this article is to describe and consider the contributions made by a researcher-driven, population-specific CAB in a genomics of schizophrenia research project taking place in South Africa, from the perspective of the research team.DiscussionFour broad discussion topics emerged during the CAB meetings namely: 1) informed consent procedures, 2) recruitment strategies, 3) patient illness beliefs and stigma experiences, and 4) specific ethical concerns relating to the project. The authors consider these discussions in terms of their contributions to instrumental and intrinsic goals of community engagement.SummaryThe CAB gave valuable input on the consent processes and materials, recruitment strategies and suggested ways of minimizing the potential for stigma and discrimination. All of these contributions were of an instrumental nature, and helped improve the way in which the research took place. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, the CAB made a unique and important contribution relating to intrinsic functions such as promoting the respect and dignity of research participants and their community. This was particularly evident in ensuring sensitivity and respect of the community’s traditional beliefs about schizophrenia and its treatment, and in this way promoting a respectful relationship between the research team and the participants. (shrink)
BackgroundMulti-centre studies generally cost more than single-centre studies because of larger sample sizes and the need for multiple ethical approvals. Multi-centre studies include clinical trials, clinical quality registries, observational studies and implementation studies. We examined the costs of two large Australian multi-centre studies in obtaining ethical and site-specific approvals.MethodsWe collected data on staff time spent on approvals and expressed the overall cost as a percent of the total budget.ResultsThe total costs of gaining approval were 38 % of the budget for (...) a study of 50 centres (mean cost AUD $6960 per site) and 2 % for a study of 11 centres (mean cost AUD $2300 per site). Seventy-five and 90 % of time was spent on repeated tasks, respectively, and many time-consuming tasks, such as reformatting documents, did nothing to improve the study design or participant safety.ConclusionsImprovements have been made to the ethical approval application system, but more gains could be made without increasing risks of harm to research participants. We propose that ethical review bodies and individual sites publish statistics on how long they take to process approvals which could then be nationally benchmarked. (shrink)
Cell line immortalisation is a growing component of African genomics research and biobanking. However, little is known about the factors influencing consent to cell line creation and immortalisation in African research settings. We contribute to addressing this gap by exploring three questions in a sample of Xhosa participants recruited for a South African psychiatric genomics study: First, what proportion of participants consented to cell line storage? Second, what were predictors of this consent? Third, what questions were raised by participants during (...) this consent process? 760 Xhose people with schizophrenia and 760 controls were matched to sex, age, level of education and recruitment region. We used descriptive statistics to determine the proportion of participants who consented to cell line creation and immortalization. Logistic regression methods were used to examine the predictors of consent. Reflections from study recruiters were elicited and discussed to identify key questions raised by participants about consent. Approximately 40% of participants consented to cell line storage. The recruiter who sought consent was a strong predictor of participant’s consent. Participants recruited from the South African Eastern Cape, and older participants, were more likely to consent; both these groups were more likely to hold traditional Xhosa values. Neither illness nor education were significant predictors of consent. Key questions raised by participants included two broad themes: clarification of what cell immortalisation means, and issues around individual and community benefit. These findings provide guidance on the proportion of participants likely to consent to cell line immortalisation in genomics research in Africa, and reinforce the important and influential role that study recruiters play during seeking of this consent. Our results reinforce the cultural and contextual factors underpinning consent choices, particularly around sharing and reciprocity. Finally, these results provide support for the growing literature challenging the stigmatizing perception that people with severe mental illness are overly vulnerable as a target group for heath research and specifically genomics studies. (shrink)
Informed consent procedures for participation in psychiatric genomics research among individuals with mental disorder and intellectual disability can often be unclear, particularly because the underlying ethos guiding consent tools reflects a core ethical tension between safeguarding and inclusion. This tension reflects important debates around the function of consent tools, as well as the contested legitimacy of decision-making capacity thresholds to screen potentially vulnerable participants. Drawing on human rights, person-centred psychiatry and supported decision-making, this paper problematises the use of consent procedures (...) as screening tools in psychiatric genomics studies, particularly as increasing normative emphasis has shifted towards the empowerment and participation of those with mental disorder and intellectual disabilities. We expound on core aspects of supported decision-making, such as relational autonomy and hermeneutic competence, to orient consent procedures towards a more educative, participatory framework that is better aligned with developments in disability studies. The paper concludes with an acknowledgement of the pragmatic and substantive challenges in adopting this framework in psychiatric genomics studies if this participatory ethos towards persons with mental disorder and intellectual disability is to be fully realised. (shrink)
Psychiatric genomics research with African populations comes with a range of practical challenges around translation of psychiatric genomics research concepts, procedures, and nosology. These challenges raise deep ethical issues particularly around legitimacy of informed consent, a core foundation of research ethics. Through a consideration of the constitutive function of language, the paper problematises like‐for‐like, designative translations which often involve the ‘indigenization’ of English terms or use of metaphors which misrepresent the risks and benefits of research. This paper argues that effective (...) translation of psychiatric genomics research terminology in African contexts demands substantive engagement with African conceptual schemas and values. In developing attenuated forms of translational thinking, researchers may recognise the deeper motivational reasons behind participation in research, highlighting the possibility that such reasons may depart from the original meaning implied within informed consent forms. These translational issues might be ameliorated with a critical re‐examination of how researchers develop and present protocols to institutional ethics review boards. (shrink)