Transparent reporting of recruitment and informed consent approaches in clinical trials recruiting children with minor parents in sub-Saharan Africa: a secondary analysis based on a systematic review

Transparent reporting of recruitment and informed consent approaches in clinical trials recruiting children with minor parents in sub-Saharan Africa: a secondary analysis based on a systematic review
Research Article
Angela De Pretto-Lazarova, Domnita Oana Brancati-Badarau, Christian Burri
BMC Public Health, 28 July 2021; 21(1473)
Open Access
Abstract
Background
Standardised checklists of items to be addressed in clinical study protocols and publications are promoting transparency in research. However, particular specifications for exceptional cases, such as children with minor parents are missing. This study aimed to examine the level of transparency regarding recruitment and informed consent approaches in publications of clinical trials recruiting children with minor parents in sub-Saharan Africa. We thereby focused particularly on the transparency about consenting persons (i.e. proxy decision-makers) and assessed the need to expand reporting guidelines for such exceptional cases.
Methods
We conducted a secondary analysis of clinical trial publications previously identified through a systematic review. Multiple scientific databases were searched up to March 2019. Clinical trial publications addressing consent and potentially recruiting children with minor parents in sub-Saharan Africa were included. 44 of the in total 4382 screened articles met our inclusion criteria. A descriptive analysis was performed.
Results
None of the included articles provided full evidence on whether any recruited children had minor parents and how consent was obtained for them. Four proxy decision-maker types were identified (parents; parents or guardians; guardians; or caregivers), with further descriptions provided rarely and mostly in referenced clinical trial registrations or protocols. Also, terminology describing proxy decision-makers was often used inconsistently.
Conclusions
Reporting the minimum maternal age alongside maternal data provided in baseline demographics can increase transparency on the recruitment of children with minor mothers. The CONSORT checklist should require clinical trial publications to state or reference exceptional informed consent procedures applied for special population groups. A standardized definition of proxy decision-maker types in international clinical trial guidelines would facilitate correct and transparent informed consent for children and children with minor parents.

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