Enrolment of children in clinical research: Understanding Ghanaian caregivers’ perspectives on consent/assent procedures, and their attitudes towards storage of biological samples for future use

Enrolment of children in clinical research: Understanding Ghanaian caregivers’ perspectives on consent/assent procedures, and their attitudes towards storage of biological samples for future use
Research Article
George O Adjei, Amos Laar, Jorgen AL Kurtzhals, Bamenla Q Goka
Clinical Ethics, 13 September 2020
Abstract
Child assent is recommended in addition to parental consent when enrolling children in clinical research; however, appreciation and relevance ascribed to these concepts vary in different contexts, and information on attitudes towards storage of biological samples for future research is limited, especially in developing countries. We assessed caregivers’ understanding and appreciation of consent and assent procedures, and their attitudes towards use of stored blood samples for future research prior to enrolling a child in clinical research. A total of 17 in-depth interviews were conducted with primary caregivers of children (fathers [n = 3], mothers [n = 12], and grandmothers [n = 2]) at enrolment or on the immediate follow-up date. All caregivers recalled significant amount information from the study information sheet and were able to appropriately link such information to the consent process. While all participants confirmed information received prior to blood sampling as adequate, a few noted that the purpose was not sufficiently well communicated. Caregivers felt children were cognitively vulnerable, and prone to decisions that were not necessarily in their best interest. Nearly all caregivers felt it was their right and responsibility to overrule objections from their ward’s regarding enrolment into specific study or receipt of a therapeutic procedure. There were no objections or concerns regarding use of stored biological samples for future research purposes. There is thus, a need to improve understanding of caregivers on the information provided during the informed consent process. Context-specific studies on the age of assent in specific populations are needed.

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