Compliance with research ethics in epidemiological studies targeted to conflict-affected areas in Western Ethiopia: validity of informed consent (VIC) by information comprehension and voluntariness (ICV)

BMC Medical Ethics 25 (1):1-9 (2024)
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BackgroundThe conduct of research is critical to advancing human health. However, there are issues of ethical concern specific to the design and conduct of research in conflict settings. Conflict-affected countries often lack strong platform to support technical guidance and monitoring of research ethics, which may lead to the use of divergent ethical standards some of which are poorly elaborated and loosely enforced. Despite the growing concern about ethical issues in research, there is a dearth of information about ethical compliance in conflict areas. Valid and ethically informed decision-making is a premier pact with research participants in settling possible ethical issues before commencing the research, which is ensured by gaining informed consent from prospective participants of the research.AimsThis research aimed to explore compliance with research ethics and consent validity in community-based epidemiological research conducted previously.MethodsResearch participants were recruited in the western part of Ethiopia in three districts subjected to conflicts. A community-based cross-sectional study design was utilized, and 338 residents were enrolled as study participants. All participants had previously been enrolled as research participants in epidemiological studies. Data was collected using a questionnaire that was pilot-tested before the commencement of the main data collection. The questionnaire focused on participants’ experiences of the informed consent process followed when they were recruited for an epidemiological study and covered themes such as essential information provided, level of comprehension, and voluntarism of consent.ResultsOver half of the study participants, 176 (52%), were not provided with essential information before consenting. And 135 (40%) of them did not comprehend the information provided to them. One hundred and ninety (56%) participants freely and voluntarily agreed to partake in one of these epidemiological studies, with over a quarter (97; 28.7%) of them reporting they were subjected to undue influence. Written consent was obtained from only 32 (9.4%) of the participants.



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