Although informed consent is important in clinical research, questions persist regarding when it is necessary, what it requires, and how it should be obtained. The standard view in research ethics is that the function of informed consent is to respect individual autonomy. However, consent processes are multidimensional and serve other ethical functions as well. These functions deserve particular attention when barriers to consent exist. We argue that consent serves seven ethically important and conceptually distinct functions. The first four functions pertain (...) principally to individual participants: (1) providing transparency; (2) allowing control and authorization; (3) promoting concordance with participants' values; and (4) protecting and promoting welfare interests. Three other functions are systemic or policy focused: (5) promoting trust; (6) satisfying regulatory requirements; and (7) promoting integrity in research. Reframing consent around these functions can guide approaches to consent that are context sensitive and that maximize achievable goals. (shrink)
Shared decision-making has become a new focus of health policy. Though its core elements are largely agreed upon, there is little consensus regarding which outcomes to prioritize for policy-mandated shared decision-making.
Clinical trials in emergency situations present unique challenges, because they involve enrolling individuals who lack capacity to consent in the context of acute illness or injury. The US Department of Health and Human Services and Food and Drug Administration regulations allowing an Exception from Informed Consent in these circumstances contain requirements for community consultation, public disclosure and restrictions on study risks and benefits. In this paper, we analyse an issue raised in the regulations that has received little attention or analysis (...) but is ethically complex. This challenge is when to solicit and honour objections to EFIC trial enrolment, including from non-legally appointed representatives. We address novel questions involving whose objections should be honoured, what level of understanding is necessary for objections to be considered valid and how hard investigators should work to offer an opportunity to object. We present a set of criteria that provide conceptual and practical guidance. We argue that objections should be honoured if they undermine one of the key assumptions that allows for the permissibility of EFIC trials: that individuals would likely not object to enrolment based on their values or preferences. We then clarify the practical implications of this approach through examination of three cases of refusal in an EFIC study. (shrink)
BackgroundInformed consent forms are intended to facilitate research enrollment decisions. However, the technical language in institutional templates can be unfamiliar and confusing for decision-makers. Standardized language describing financial implications of participation, namely compensation for injury and costs of care associated with participating, can be complex and could be a deterrent for potential participants. This standardized language may also be misleading in the context of comparative effectiveness trials of standard care interventions, in which costs and risk of injury associated with participating (...) may not differ from regular medical care. In addition, the revised U.S. Common Rule contains a new requirement to present key information upfront; the impact of how this requirement is operationalized on comprehension and likelihood of enrollment for a given study is unknown.MethodsTwo online surveys assessed the impact of (1) changes to compensation for injury language (standard vs. tailored language form) and (2) changes to the key information page (using the tailored compensation language form with standard key information vs. modified key information vs. modified key information plus financial information) on both likelihood of enrollment in and understanding of a hypothetical comparative effectiveness trial.ResultsLikelihood of enrolling was not observed to be different between the standard and tailored language forms in Study 1 (73 vs. 75%; p = 0.6); however, the tailored language group had a higher frequency of understanding the compensation for injury process specific to the trial (25 vs. 51%; p < 0.0001). Modifications to the key information sheet in Study 2 did not affect likelihood of enrolling (88 vs. 85 vs. 85%; p = 0.6); however, understanding of randomization differed by form (44 vs. 59 vs. 46%; p = 0.002).ConclusionsThese findings suggest that refining consent forms to clarify key information and tailoring compensation for injury language to the nature of the study, especially in the context of comparative effectiveness trials, may help to improve study comprehension but may not impact enrollment. (shrink)
Research involving recently deceased humans that are physiologically maintained following declaration of death by neurologic criteria—or ‘research involving the recently deceased’—can fill a translational research gap while reducing harm to animals and living human subjects. It also creates new challenges for honouring the donor’s legacy, respecting the rights of donor loved ones, resource allocation and public health. As this research model gains traction, new empirical ethics questions must be answered to preserve public trust in all forms of tissue donation and (...) in the practice of medicine while respecting the legacy of the deceased and the rights of donor loved ones. This article suggests several topics for immediate investigation to understand the attitudes and experiences of researchers, clinical collaborators, donor loved ones and the public to ensure research involving the recently deceased advances ethically. (shrink)