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J Empir Res Hum Res Ethics. 2012 Apr;7(2):37-50. doi: 10.1525/jer.2012.7.2.37.

Using data to improve surrogate consent for clinical research with incapacitated adults.

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  • 1Department of Bioethics, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-1156, USA.

Abstract

Current practice relies on surrogates to enroll incapacitated adults in research. Yet, it is unclear to what extent this practice protects adults who have lost the ability to consent for themselves. To address this question, we conducted two literature searches to identify articles which report empirical data on three issues central to protecting adults who have lost the ability to consent: (1) adults' willingness to participate in research should they lose the ability to consent; (2) adults' willingness to allow a surrogate to make research decisions for them; and (3) the extent to which surrogates' enrollment decisions are consistent with their charges' preferences and values. These searches identified 21 articles, representing 20 distinct datasets. The data indicate that many adults are willing to participate in research should they lose the ability to consent, and many are willing to allow their family members to make research decisions for them if they become incapacitated. The data also raise concern that surrogates may be making research enrollment decisions that, in some cases, are inconsistent with their charges' preferences and values. These findings suggest that modifications to current practice should be considered to better protect adults who have lost the ability to consent. One option would be to require, in addition to surrogate permission and subject assent, sufficient evidence that enrollment is consistent with the individual's preferences and values.

PMID:
22565582
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3474197
Free PMC Article
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