Social and Communicative Functions of Informed Consent Forms in East Asia and Beyond.
ABSTRACT: The recent research and technology development in medical genomics has raised new issues that are profoundly different from those encountered in traditional clinical research for which informed consent was developed. Global initiatives for international collaboration and public participation in genomics research now face an increasing demand for new forms of informed consent which reflect local contexts. This article analyzes informed consent forms (ICFs) for genomic research formulated by four selected research programs and institutes in East Asia - the Medical Genome Science Program in Japan, Universiti Sains Malaysia Human Research Ethics Committee in Malaysia, and the Taiwan Biobank and the Taipei Medical University- Joint Institutional Review Board in Taiwan. The comparative text analysis highlights East Asian contexts as distinct from other regions by identifying communicative and social functions of consent forms. The communicative functions include re-contact options and offering interactive support for research participants, and setting opportunities for family or community engagement in the consent process. This implies that informed consent cannot be validated solely with the completion of a consent form at the initial stage of the research, and informed consent templates can facilitate interactions between researchers and participants through (even before and after) the research process. The social functions consist of informing participants of possible social risks that include genetic discrimination, sample and data sharing, and highlighting the role of ethics committees. Although international ethics harmonization and the subsequent coordination of consent forms may be necessary to maintain the quality and consistency of consent process for data-intensive international research, it is also worth paying more attention to the local values and different settings that exist where research participants are situated for research in medical genomics. More than simply tools to gain consent from research participants, ICFs function rather as a device of social communication between research communities and civic communities in liaison with intermediary agents like ethics committees, genetic counselors, and public biobanks and databases.
Project description:Importance:Potential research participants may assume that randomized trials comparing new interventions with older interventions always hypothesize greater efficacy for the new intervention, as in superiority trials. However, antibiotic trials frequently use "noninferiority" hypotheses allowing a degree of inferior efficacy deemed "clinically acceptable" compared with an older effective drug, in exchange for nonefficacy benefits (eg, decreased adverse effects). Considering these different benefit-harm trade-offs, proper informed consent necessitates supplying different information on the purposes of superiority and noninferiority trials. Objective:To determine the degree to which the study purpose is explained to potential participants in randomized clinical trials of antibiotics and the degree to which study protocols justify their selection of noninferiority hypotheses and amount of "clinically acceptable" inferiority. Design and Setting:Cross-sectional analysis of study protocols, statistical analysis plans (SAPs), and informed consent forms (ICFs) from clinical study reports submitted to the European Medicines Agency. The ICFs were read by both methodologists and patient investigators. Main Outcomes and Measures:Protocols and SAPs were used as the reference standard to determine prespecified primary hypothesis and record rationale for selection of noninferiority hypotheses and noninferiority margins. This information was cross-referenced against ICFs to determine whether ICFs explained the study purpose. Results:We obtained trial documents from 78 randomized trials with prespecified efficacy hypotheses (6 superiority, 72 noninferiority) for 17 antibiotics conducted between 1991 and 2011 that enrolled 39?407 patients. Fifty were included in the ICF analysis. All ICFs contained sections describing study purpose; however, none consistently conveyed study hypothesis to both methodologists and patient investigators. Methodologists found that 1 of 50 conveyed a study purpose. Patient investigators found that 11 of 50 conveyed a study purpose, 7 accurately and 4 inaccurately compared with the reference standard. Seventy-one of 72 noninferiority trial protocols or SAPs provided no rationale for selection of noninferiority hypothesis. None provided a clinical rationale for the chosen amount of decreased efficacy. Conclusions and Relevance:Patients were not accurately informed of study purpose, which raises questions regarding the ethics of informed consent in antibiotic trials. Noninferiority and superiority trials entail different benefit-harm trade-offs that must be conveyed for ethical informed consent.
Project description:OBJECTIVES:The first aim of this study was to quantify the difficulty level of clinical research Patient Information Leaflets/Informed Consent Forms (PILs/ICFs) using validated and widely used readability criteria which provide a broad assessment of written communication. The second aim was to compare these findings with best practice guidelines. DESIGN:Retrospective, quantitative analysis of clinical research PILs/ICFs provided by academic institutions, pharmaceutical companies and investigators. SETTING:PILs/ICFs which had received Research Ethics Committee approval in the last 5?years were collected from Ireland and the UK. INTERVENTION:Not applicable. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:PILs/ICFs were evaluated against seven validated readability criteria (Flesch Reading Ease, Flesh Kincaid Grade Level, Simplified Measure of Gobbledegook, Gunning Fog, Fry, Raygor and New Dale Chall). The documents were also scored according to two health literacy-based criteria: the Clear Communication Index (CCI) and the Suitability Assessment of Materials tool. Finally, the documents were assessed for compliance with six best practice metrics from literacy agencies. RESULTS:A total of 176 PILs were collected, of which 154 were evaluable. None of the PILs/ICFs had the mean reading age of <12 years recommended by the American Medical Association. 7.1% of PILs/ICFs were evaluated as 'Plain English', 40.3%: 'Fairly Difficult', 51.3%: 'Difficult' and 1.3%: 'Very Difficult'. No PILs/ICFs achieved a CCI >90. Only two documents complied with all six best practice literacy metrics. CONCLUSIONS:When assessed against both traditional readability criteria and health literacy-based tools, the PILs/ICFs in this study are inappropriately complex. There is also evidence of poor compliance with guidelines produced by literacy agencies. These data clearly evidence the need for improved documentation to underpin the consent process.
Project description:Informed consent is essential to ethical research and is requisite to participation in clinical research. Yet most hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) informed consent forms (ICFs) are written at reading levels that are above the ability of the average person in the United States (U.S.). The recent development of ICF templates by the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, and the National Heart Blood and Lung Institute have not resulted in increased patient comprehension of information. Barriers to creating Easy-to-Read ICFs that meet U.S. federal requirements and pass institutional review board (IRB) review are the result of multiple interconnected factors. The Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinical Trials Network (BMT CTN) formed an ad hoc review team to address concerns regarding the overall readability and length of ICFs used for BMT CTN trials. This paper summarizes recommendations of the review team for the development and formatting of Easy-to-Read ICFs for HCT multicenter clinical trials, the most novel of which is the use of a 2-column format. These recommendations intend to guide the ICF writing process, simplify local IRB review of the ICF, enhance patient comprehension, and improve patient satisfaction. The BMT CTN plans to evaluate the impact of the Easy-to-Read format compared with the traditional format on the informed consent process.
Project description:Long informed consent forms (ICFs) remain commonplace, yet they can negatively affect potential participants' understanding of clinical research. We aimed to build consensus among six groups of key stakeholders on advancing the use of shorter ICFs in clinical research. Partnering with the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN), we used a modified Delphi process with semistructured interviews and online surveys. Concerns about redundancy of information were common. Respondents supported three strategies for reducing ICF length: (a) 91% agreed or strongly agreed with grouping study procedures by frequency, (b) 91% were comfortable or very comfortable with placing supplemental information into appendices, and (c) 93% agreed or strongly agreed with listing duplicate side effects only once. Implementing these strategies will facilitate adoption of the proposed changes to U.S. regulations on ICF length, should they be enacted.
Project description:Obtaining a research participant's voluntary and informed consent is the bedrock of sound ethics practice. Greater inclusion of children in research has led to questions about how paediatric consent operates in practice to accord with current and emerging legal and socio-ethical issues, norms, and requirements.Employing a qualitative thematic content analysis, we examined paediatric consent forms from major academic centres and public organisations across Canada dated from 2008-2011, which were purposively selected to reflect different types of research ethics boards, participants, and studies. The studies included biobanking, longitudinal studies, and gene-environment studies. Our purpose was to explore the following six emerging issues: (1) whether the scope of parental consent allows for a child's assent, dissent, or future consent; (2) whether the concepts of risk and benefit incorporate the child's psychological and social perspective; (3) whether a child's ability to withdraw is respected and to what extent withdrawal is permitted; (4) whether the return of research results includes individual results and/or incidental findings and the processes involved therein; (5) whether privacy and confidentiality concerns adequately address the child's perspective and whether standard data and/or sample identifiability nomenclature is used; and (6) whether retention of and access to paediatric biological samples and associated medical data are addressed.The review suggests gaps and variability in the consent forms with respect to addressing each of the six issues. Many forms did not discuss the possibility of returning research results, be they individual or general/aggregate results. Forms were also divided in terms of the scope of parental consent (specific versus broad), and none discussed a process for resolving disputes that can arise when either the parents or the child wishes to withdraw from the study.The analysis provides valuable insight and evidence into how consent forms address current ethical issues. While we do not thoroughly explore the contexts and reasons behind consent form gaps and variability, we do advocate and formulate the development of best practices for drafting paediatric health research consent forms. This can greatly ameliorate current gaps and facilitate harmonised and yet contextualised approaches to paediatric health research ethics.
Project description:Background Informed consent is often cited as the “cornerstone” of research ethics. Its intent is that participants enter research voluntarily, with an understanding of what their participation entails. Despite agreement on the necessity to obtain informed consent in research, opinions vary on the threshold of disclosure necessary and the best method to obtain consent. We aimed to investigate Australian researchers’ views on, and their experiences with, obtaining informed consent. Methods Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 23 researchers from NSW institutions, working in various fields of research. Interviews were analysed and coded to identify themes. Results Researchers reported that consent involved information disclosure, understanding and a voluntary decision. They emphasised the variability of consent interactions, which were dependent on potential participants’ abilities and interests, study complexity and context. All researchers reported providing written information to potential participants, yet questioned the readability and utility of this information. The majority reported using signed consent forms to ‘operationalise’ consent and reported little awareness of, and lack of support in implementing more dynamic informed consent procedures, such as verbal informed consent, that was fit for the purposes of their studies. Views on Human Research Ethics Committees (HRECs) varied. Some reported inconsistent, arduous inputs on the information form and consent process. Others expressed reliance on HRECs for guidance, viewing them as institutional safeguards. Conclusions This study highlights the importance of transparent relationships, both between researchers and participants, and between researchers and HRECs. Where the relationship with study participants was reported as more robust, researchers felt that they were better able to ensure participants made better, more informed decisions. Where the relationship with HRECs was reported as more robust, researchers were more likely to view them as institutional safeguards, rather than as bureaucratic hindrances. Conscientious and mindful researchers are paramount to ensuring the procedure accommodates individual requirements. This study advocates that when designing ethical informed consent practices, researchers should be integrated as autonomous players with a positive input on the process, rather than, in the worst case, predatory recruiters to be curtailed by information forms and oversight.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Informed consent forms (ICFs) for oncology clinical trials have grown increasingly longer and more complex. We evaluated objective understanding of critical components of informed consent among patients enrolling in contemporary trials of conventional or novel biologic/targeted therapies. METHODS:We evaluated ICFs for cancer clinical trials for length and readability, and patients registered on those studies were asked to complete a validated 14-question survey assessing their understanding of key characteristics of the trial. Mean scores were compared in groups defined by trial and patient characteristics. RESULTS:Fifty patients, of whom half participated in trials of immunotherapy or biologic/targeted agents and half in trials of conventional therapy, completed the survey. On average, ICFs for industry-originated trials (N = 9 trials) were significantly longer (P < .0001) and had lower Flesch ease-of-reading scores (P = .003) than investigator-initiated trials (N = 11). At least 80% of patients incorrectly responded to three key questions which addressed the experimental nature of their trial therapy, its purported efficacy and potential risks relative to alternative treatments. The mean objective understanding score was 76.9±8.8, but it was statistically significantly lower for patients who had not completed high school (P = .011). The scores did not differ significantly by type of cancer therapy (P = .12) or trial sponsor (P = .38). CONCLUSIONS:Many participants enrolled on cancer trials had poor understanding of essential elements of their trial. In order to ensure true informed consent, innovative approaches, such as expanded in-person counseling adapted to the patient's education level or cultural characteristics should be evaluated across socio-demographic groups. TRIAL REGISTRATION:Clinicaltrials.gov NCT01772511.
Project description:The use of lengthy, detailed, and complex informed consent forms (ICFs) is of paramount concern in biomedical research as it may not truly promote the rights and interests of research participants. The extent of information in ICFs has been the subject of debates for decades; however, no clear guidance is given. Thus, the objective of this study was to determine the perspectives of research participants about the type and extent of information they need when they are invited to participate in biomedical research.This multi-center, cross-sectional, descriptive survey was conducted at 54 study sites in seven Asia-Pacific countries. A modified Likert-scale questionnaire was used to determine the importance of each element in the ICF among research participants of a biomedical study, with an anchored rating scale from 1 (not important) to 5 (very important).Of the 2484 questionnaires distributed, 2113 (85.1%) were returned. The majority of respondents considered most elements required in the ICF to be 'moderately important' to 'very important' for their decision making (mean score, ranging from 3.58 to 4.47). Major foreseeable risk, direct benefit, and common adverse effects of the intervention were considered to be of most concerned elements in the ICF (mean score?=?4.47, 4.47, and 4.45, respectively).Research participants would like to be informed of the ICF elements required by ethical guidelines and regulations; however, the importance of each element varied, e.g., risk and benefit associated with research participants were considered to be more important than the general nature or technical details of research. Using a participant-oriented approach by providing more details of the participant-interested elements while avoiding unnecessarily lengthy details of other less important elements would enhance the quality of the ICF.
Project description:Approval of the research proposal by an ethical review committee from both sponsoring and host countries is a generally agreed requirement in externally sponsored research.However, capacity for ethics review is not universal. Aim of this study was to identify opinions and views of the members serving in ethical review and ethics committees in Sri Lanka on informed consent, essential components in the information leaflet and the consent form.We obtained ethical approval from UK and Sri Lanka. A series of consensus generation meetings on the protocol were conducted. A task oriented interview guide was developed. The interview was based on open-ended questionnaire. Then the participants were given a WHO checklist on informed consent and requested to rate the items on a three point scale ranging from extremely important to not important.Twenty-nine members from ethics committees participated. Majority of participants (23), believed a copy of the information leaflet and consent form, should accompany research proposal. Opinions about the items that should be included in the information leaflets varied. Participants identified 18 criteria as requirements in the information leaflet and 19 for the consent form. The majority, 20 (69%), believed that all research need ethical approval but identified limited human resource, time and inadequate capacity as constraints. Fifteen (52%) believed that written consent is not required for all research. Verbal consent emerged as an alternative to written consent. The majority of participants rated all components of the WHO checklist as important.The number of themes generated for the consent form (N = 18) is as many as for the information leaflet (N = 19) and had several overlaps. This suggests that the consent form should be itemized to reflect the contents covered in the information leaflet. The participants' opinion on components of the information leaflets and consent forms proved to be similar with WHO checklist on informed consent.
Project description:To investigate the extent to which authors of cluster randomised trials adhered to two basic requirements of the World Medical Association's Declaration of Helsinki and the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors' uniform requirements for manuscripts (namely, reporting of research ethics review and informed consent), to determine whether the adequacy of reporting has improved over time, and to identify characteristics of cluster randomised trials associated with reporting of ethics practices.Review of a random sample of published cluster randomised trials from an electronic search in Medline.Cluster randomised trials in health research published in English language journals from 2000 to 2008. Study sample 300 cluster randomised trials published in 150 journals.77 (26%, 95% confidence interval 21% to 31%) trials failed to report ethics review. The proportion reporting ethics review increased significantly over time (P<0.001). Trials with data collection interventions at the individual level were more likely to report ethics review than were trials that used routine data sources only (79% (n=151) v 55% (23); P=0.008). Trials that accounted for clustering in the design and analysis were more likely to report ethics review. The median impact factor of the journal of publication was higher for trials that reported ethics review (3.4 v 2.3; P<0.001). 93 (31%, 26% to 36%) trials failed to report consent. Reporting of consent increased significantly over time (P<0.001). Trials with interventions targeting participants at the individual level were more likely to report consent than were trials with interventions targeting the cluster level (87% (90) v 48% (41); P<0.001). Trials with data collection interventions at the individual level were more likely to report consent than were those that used routine data sources only (78% (146) v 29% (11); P<0.001).Reporting of research ethics protections in cluster randomised trials is inadequate. In addition to research ethics approval, authors should report whether informed consent was sought, from whom consent was sought, and what consent was for.