BACKGROUND: Informed consent of trial participants is both an ethical and a legal requirement. When facing a decision about trial participation, potential participants are provided with information about the trial and have the opportunity to have any questions answered before their degree of 'informed-ness' is assessed, usually subjectively, and before they are asked to sign a consent form. Currently, standardised methods for assessing informed consent have tended to be focused on aspects of understanding and associated outcomes, rather than on the process of consent and the steps associated with decision-making.
METHODS: Potential trial participants who were approached regarding participation in one of three randomised controlled trials were asked to complete a short questionnaire to measure their deliberation about trial participation. A total of 136 participants completed the 10-item questionnaire (DelibeRATE) before they made an explicit decision about trial participation (defined as signing the clinical trial consent form). Overall DelibeRATE scores were compared and investigated for differences between trial consenters and refusers.
RESULTS: No differences in overall DelibeRATE scores were identified. In addition, there was no significant difference between overall score and the decision to participate, or not, in the parent trial.
CONCLUSIONS: To our knowledge, this is the first study to prospectively measure the deliberation stage of the informed consent decision-making process of potential trial participants across different conditions and clinical areas. Although there were no differences detected in overall scores or scores of trial consenters and refusers, we did identify some interesting findings that are important to take into consideration by those designing trials and others interested in developing and implementing measures of people's decision-making processes while deciding whether to provide informed consent to become research participants.Trial registration: International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number (ISRCTN) Register ISRCTN60695184 (date of registration: 13 May 2009), ISRCTN8006172 (date of registration: 8 March 2010), ISRCTN69423238 (date of registration: 18 November 2010).
- clinical trial
- informed consent