Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Ways to improve informed consent are testable

Findings could prevent costly but worthless attempts to improve mainstay of clinical trials

New ways to make sure people are adequately informed about the risks and benefits of taking part in a clinical trial can be field-tested for effectiveness as vigorously as new medical treatments themselves, a study led by a Johns Hopkins bioethicist suggests.

Informed consent, a mainstay of ethical clinical trials, is the process by which potential research subjects are asked to decide whether to participate in research. The bedrock components of the process include gaining an understanding of the study’s goals and benefits, as well as the risks and roles of the subjects themselves.

“Many clinical researchers believe that the informed consent process and documents need to be better and that people often consent without understanding that the research is not intended to benefit them personally,” says Jeremy Sugarman, professor of bioethics and medicine at the Berman Institute of Bioethics at The Johns Hopkins University.

“Although numerous improvements have been suggested, no sound objective method existed to test them, leaving the process open to costly or time-consuming interventions that could ultimately have no effect,” he adds.

Writing in the December 2007 Clinical Trials, Sugarman and his colleagues, Philip W. Lavori of Stanford University School of Medicine and Timothy J. Wilt of the Minneapolis VA Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research, describe a questionnaire tool they developed and tested at 30 study sites in five ongoing clinical trials for medical treatments that include from administering selenium and vitamin E to prevent cancer and giving female veterans therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Though the tool ultimately proved ineffective in improving informed consent in this experiment with its use, Sugarman says the evaluation method they developed is helpful in ruling out what doesn’t work.

Sugarman and his colleagues started with the idea that if those seeking informed consent from potential subjects were armed with reminders of the steps needed to adequately educate them, participants would be more likely to receive and understand the information they need to make good decisions.

Consequently, the investigators put together a short, self-monitoring questionnaire for researchers to fill out after each time they obtained informed consent. This questionnaire is a checklist of 18 questions that review critical parts of the informed consent process designed to help ensure that potential participants understand what is being asked of them.

In an experiment to test the questionnaire, clinical trial administrators used it at half of the study sites so that they could compare its impact.

Volunteers at a phone bank spoke with study subjects who minutes before had agreed to join a clinical trial at all the study sites, asking a series of questions to assess how much the subjects understood about the trial, their role in the research and what the trial’s benefits would be. The callers didn’t know which subjects had joined the trials at sites that used the questionnaire and which did not.

When the researchers compared results from the calls to participants at all of the sites, they found similar results, suggesting that the questionnaire did nothing to improve informed consent. A significant number of patients did not fully understand the purpose of the research, that the research may not benefit them or that agreeing to participate was completely voluntary.

“Implementing changes to the informed consent process is like taking new medicine - you wouldn’t want to take a drug if it was too expensive or burdensome unless it’s really helpful,” Sugarman says. “This study shows that we can do rigorous clinical testing of informed consent, just like we can do rigorous testing of drugs in clinical trials.”

Christen Brownlee | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Oasis of life in the ice-covered central Arctic

24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences

‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>