Research on COVID-19 in South Africa: Guiding principles for informed consent

Research on COVID-19 in South Africa: Guiding principles for informed consent
J de Vries, T Burgess, M Blockman, N A B Ntusi
South African Medical Journal, 5 June 2020
Open Access
Abstract
Research is imperative in addressing the COVID-19 epidemic, both in the short and long term. Informed consent is a key pillar of research and should be central to the conduct of COVID-19 research. Yet a range of factors, including physical distancing requirements, risk of exposure and infection to research staff, and multiple pressures on the healthcare environment, have added layers of challenges to the consent process in COVID-19 patients. Internationally, the recognition that consent for COVID-19 research may be imperfect has led to a range of suggestions to ensure that research remains ethical. Drawing on these guidelines, we propose a consent process for COVID-19 research in the South African context that combines individual consent with delayed and proxy consent for individuals who may be temporarily incapacitated, combined with key principles that should be considered in the design of a consent process for COVID-19 research.

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