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Acad Emerg Med. 2005 Nov;12(11):1071-7.

Resuscitation research involving vulnerable populations: are additional protections needed for emergency exception from informed consent?

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Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


The application of basic ethical principles to resuscitation research and other research in the emergency and critical care settings presents a particular challenge. The emergency exception from informed consent (EFIC) rule (21 CFR 50.24 and 45 CFR 46.101[i]) addresses a particular vulnerability: that which occurs when persons cannot consent due to acute loss of decisional capacity. The question arises as to whether populations defined as "vulnerable" are unique within studies to which EFIC applies. This report details the proceedings of a breakout session of the 2005 Academic Emergency Medicine Consensus Conference, "Ethical Conduct of Resuscitation Research," that dealt with this issue. Topics addressed were 1) the applicability of the term "vulnerable" in research using EFIC; 2) the relationship between vulnerability, exploitability, and capacity; 3) the significance of vulnerability in research design; 4) the adaptation of the informed consent process to the emergency setting; and 5) the role of the institutional review board. Ten consensus recommendations emerged from the discussion. Of particular importance was the endorsement of the idea that research using EFIC is as important in vulnerable populations as in the general population and that the systematic exclusion of vulnerable populations from resuscitation research is inappropriate.

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