The CORBEL matrix on informed consent in clinical studies: a multidisciplinary approach of Research Infrastructures Building Enduring Life-science Services

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Abstract

Background: Informed consent forms for clinical research are several and variable at international, national and local levels. According to the literature, they are often unclear and poorly understood by participants. Within the H2020 project CORBEL—Coordinated Research Infrastructures Building Enduring Life-science Services—clinical researchers, researchers in ethical, social, and legal issues, experts in planning and management of clinical studies, clinicians, researchers in citizen involvement and public engagement worked together to provide a minimum set of requirements for informed consent in clinical studies. Methods: The template was based on a literature review including systematic reviews and guidelines searched on PubMed, Embase, Cochrane Library, NICE, SIGN, GIN, and Clearinghouse databases, and on comparison of templates gathered through an extensive search on the websites of research institutes, national and international agencies, and international initiatives. We discussed the draft versions step-by-step and then we referred to it as the “matrix” to underline its modular character and indicate that it allows adaptation to the context in which it will be used. The matrix was revised by representatives of two international patient groups. Results: The matrix covers the process of ensuring that the appropriate information, context and setting are provided so that the participant can give truly informed consent. It addresses the key topics and proposes wording on how to clarify the meaning of placebo and of non-inferiority studies, the importance of individual participants’ data sharing, and the impossibility of knowing in advance how the data might be used in future studies. Finally, it presents general suggestions on wording, format, and length of the information sheet. Conclusions: The matrix underlines the importance of improving the process of communication, its proper conditions (space, time, setting), and addresses the participants’ lack of knowledge on how clinical research is conducted. It can be easily applied to a specific setting and could be a useful tool to identify the appropriate informed consent format for any study. The matrix is mainly intended to support multicentre interventional randomized clinical studies, but several suggestions also apply to non-interventional research.

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Colombo, C., Mayrhofer, M. T., Kubiak, C., Battaglia, S., Matei, M., Lavitrano, M., … Mosconi, P. (2021). The CORBEL matrix on informed consent in clinical studies: a multidisciplinary approach of Research Infrastructures Building Enduring Life-science Services. BMC Medical Ethics, 22(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12910-021-00639-x

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