The informed consent process is designed to inform the subject of the risks, rights, and benefits of participation in a clinical research trial. Informed consent, while not always necessary, is a critical component of ethical research involving human subjects. This article includes an overview of two sets of regulations regarding informed consent found in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Titles 21 and 45: 21 CFR 50 and 56, the Food and Drug Administration Regulations, and 45 CFR 46, where applicable, the Department of Health and Human Services Regulations. Also included in this discussion are the general requirements of informed consent; challenging issues regarding informed consent; determining and obtaining informed consent in research involving vulnerable subjects (e.g., children, critically ill patients); the use of genetic information; confidentiality and privacy of subject information; and compensation for injury during a research study. Examples of acceptable and unacceptable (exculpatory) informed consent language are also provided as they may pertain to commercial gain, confidentiality, and compensation for injury. The goal of this article is to provide the clinical researcher with an explanation of the legal requirements for informed consent in clinical research. The researcher faces many challenges in implementing effective informed consent beyond the federal regulations.
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