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J Pediatr. 1998 Apr;132(4):606-11.

Conventional consent with opting in versus simplified consent with opting out: an exploratory trial for studies that do not increase patient risk.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, USA.



The objective of this study was to assess a modified consent procedure allowed under federal regulations and developed for studies, particularly clinical trials, that are judged by the Institutional Review Board to reduce or have no effect on patient risk.


This was a randomized trial of a conventional consent procedure that required parental signature to give consent (opting in) after a comprehensive disclosure of the rights of participants in research versus a modified consent procedure that required parental signature to refuse consent (opting out) after specific disclosures appropriate when risk is not increased. Consent was sought for a trial of primary follow-up care for disadvantaged infants at high risk, a trial judged by our Institutional Review Board to increase access to care for both groups. A blinded assessor interviewed mothers within 24 hours of the consent decision.


Among the 44 mothers interviewed, the modified consent group scored higher than the conventional consent group in recall and understanding of study purpose and methods (47% vs 30%; p < 0.02). Other comparisons provided no evidence that the modified consent procedure was less desirable. Virtually all mothers reported satisfaction.


The modified approach may improve communication and facilitate studies judged by the Institutional Review Board to be risk-neutral or risk-reducing. Further evaluation of a modified consent procedure for such studies is warranted.

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