COVID-19 and consent for research: Navigating during a global pandemic

COVID-19 and consent for research: Navigating during a global pandemic
Research Article
Ran D Goldman, Luke Gelinas
Clinical Ethics, 5 November 2020
Open Access
The modern ethical framework demands informed consent for research participation that includes disclosure of material information, as well as alternatives. The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic (COVID-19) results in illness that often involves rapid deterioration. Despite the urgent need to find therapy, obtaining informed consent for COVID-19 research is needed. The current pandemic presents three types of challenges for investigators faced with obtaining informed consent for research participation: (1) uncertainty over key information to informed consent, (2) time and pressure constraints, and (3) obligations regarding disclosure of new alternative therapies and re-consent. To mitigate consenting challenges, primary investigators need to work together to jointly promote urgent care and research into COVID-19. Actions they can take include (1) prior plan addressing ways to incorporate clinical research into clinical practice in emergency, (2) consider patients vulnerable with early deliberation on the consent process, (3) seek Legally Authorized Representatives (LARs), (4) create a collaborative research teams, (5) aim to consent once, despite evolving information during the pandemic, and (6) aim to match patients to a trial that will most benefit them. The COVID-19 pandemic both exacerbates existing challenges and raises unique obstacles for consent that require forethought and mindfulness to overcome. While research teams and clinician-investigators will need to be sensitive to their own contexts and adapt solutions accordingly, they can meet the challenge of obtaining genuinely informed consent during the current pandemic.

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