The Patients Have a Story to Tell: Informed Consent for People who use Illicit Opiates

The Patients Have a Story to Tell: Informed Consent for People who use Illicit Opiates
Research Article
Jane McCall, J Craig Phillips, Andrew Estafan, Vera Caine
Nursing Ethics, 26 February 2020
Abstract
Background
There is a significant discourse in the literature that opines that people who use illicit opiates are unable to provide informed consent due to withdrawal symptoms and cognitive impairment as a result of opiate use.
Aims
This paper discusses the issues related to informed consent for this population.
Ethical considerations
Ethical approval was obtained from both the local REB and the university. Written informed consent was obtained from all participants.
Method
This was a qualitative interpretive descriptive study. 22 participants were interviewed, including 18 nurses, 2 social workers and 2 clinic support workers. The findings were analyzed using thematic analysis, which is a way of systematically reducing the complexity of the information to arrive at generalized explanations.
Results
The staff at the clinic were overwhelming clear in their judgment that people who use opiates can and should be able to participate in research and that their drug use is not a barrier to informed consent.
Conclusions
It is important to involve people who use opiates in research. Protectionist concerns about this population may be overstated. Such concerns do not promote the interests of research participants. People who use heroin need to be able to tell their story.

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