Why ‘understanding’ of research may not be necessary for ethical emergency research

Why ‘understanding’ of research may not be necessary for ethical emergency research
Dan Kabonge Kaye
Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine, 26 August 2020; 15(6)
Open Access
Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are central to generating knowledge about effectiveness of interventions as well as risk, protective and prognostic factors related to diseases in emergency newborn care. Whether prospective participants understand the purpose of research, and what they perceive as the influence of the context on their understanding of the informed consent process for RCTs in emergency obstetric and newborn care are not well documented.
Conceptual review.
Research is necessary to identify how the illnesses may be prevented, to explore the causes, and to investigate what medications could be used to manage such illness. Voluntary informed consent requires that prospective participants understand the disclose information about the research, and use this to make autonomous informed decision about participation, in line with their preferences and values. Yet the emergency context affects how information may be disclosed to prospective research participants, how much participants may comprehend, and how participants may express their voluntary decision to participate, all of which pose a threat to the validity of the informed consent. I challenge the claim that the ‘understanding’ of research is always necessary for ethical informed consent for research during emergency care. I argue for reconceptualization of the value of understanding, through recognition of other values that may be equally important. I then present a reflective perspective that frames moral reflection about autonomy, beneficence and justice in research in emergency research.
While participant ‘understanding’ of research is important, it is neither necessary nor sufficient for a valid informed consent, and may compete with other values with which it needs to be considered.

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