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Ways to improve informed consent are testable, study says
Date:1/11/2008

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 studys 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 doesnt work.

Sugarman and his colleagues started with the idea that if those seeking informed consent from
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Contact: Christen Brownlee
cbrownlee@jhmi.edu
410-955-7832
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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