Examining consent for interventional research in potential deceased organ donors: a narrative review

Examining consent for interventional research in potential deceased organ donors: a narrative review
Cooper J, Harvey D, Gardiner D
Anaesthesia, 24 Apr 2020
In the last decade, research in transplant medicine has focused on developing interventions in the management of the deceased organ donor to improve the quality and quantity of transplantable organs. Despite the promise of interventional donor research, there remain debates about the ethics of this research, specifically regarding gaining research consent. Here, we examine the concerns and ambiguities around consent for interventional donor research, which incorporate questions about who should consent for interventional donor research and what people are being asked to consent for. We highlight the US and UK policy responses to these concerns and argue that, whereas guidance in this area has done much to clarify these ambiguities, there is little consideration of the nature, practicalities and context around consent in this area, particularly regarding organ donors and their families. We review wider studies of consent in critical care research and social science studies of consent in medical research, to gain a broader view of consent in this area as a relational and contextual process. We contend a lack of consideration has been given to: what it might mean to consent to interventional donor research; how families, patients and health professionals might experience providing and seeking this consent; who is best placed to have these discussions; and the socio-institutional contexts affecting these processes. Further, empirical research is required to establish an ethical and sensitive model for consent in interventional donor research, ensuring the principles enshrined in research ethics are met and public trust in organ donation is maintained.

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