Caregivers’ Understanding of Informed Consent in a Randomized Control Trial

Caregivers’ Understanding of Informed Consent in a Randomized Control Trial
Original Research
Dorothy Helen Boyd, Yinan Zhang, Lee Smith, Lee Adam, L. Foster Page & W. M. Thomson
Journal of Bioethical Inquiry, 15 January 2021
There are differences in caregivers’ literacy and health literacy levels that may affect their ability to consent to children participating in clinical research trials. This study aimed to explore the effectiveness, and caregivers’ understandings, of the process of informed consent that accompanied their child’s participation in a dental randomized control trial (RCT). Telephone interviews were conducted with a convenience sample of ten caregivers who each had a child participating in the RCT. Pre-tested closed and open-ended questions were used, and the findings were produced from an inductive analysis of the latter and a descriptive analysis of the former. Participants had limited understanding of the purpose of the RCT and rated the readability of the consent form more highly than they rated their understanding of the research. All felt that informed consent was vital, but some caregivers had not read the consent documents. Some caregivers enrolled their child in the RCT because they trusted the researchers, and the majority wanted to improve dental care for children. The informed consent process was not always effective despite high readability of the informed consent documents. Researchers must consider the health literacy of the study group, and actively engaging with caregivers to achieve meaningful informed consent may be challenging. Future research could explore participants’ perspectives of informed consent in populations with low health literacy and assess whether an underlying expectation not to comprehend health-related information may be a barrier to informed consent.

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