Voluntariness of consent to research has not been sufficiently explored through empirical research. The aims of this study were to develop a more comprehensive approach to assessing voluntariness and to generate preliminary data on the extent and correlates of limitations on voluntariness. We developed a questionnaire to evaluate subjects’ reported motivations and constraints on voluntariness. 88 subjects in five different areas of clinical research—substance abuse, cancer, HIV, interventional cardiology, and depression—were assessed. Subjects reported a variety of motivations for participation. Offers (...) of financial incentives were common but not influential, pressures from others were rare, and no threats were reported. However, certain financial incentives and—paradoxically—altruistic motivations led some subjects to feel more constrained. Consistent with previous studies, no one pattern of motivation was common to all research subjects. There was little evidence of constrained voluntariness, but some suggestion of areas of concern. Voluntariness appears to be susceptible to systematic empirical investigation. (shrink)
: Responding to the paper by Miller and Joffe, we review the development of the concept of therapeutic misconception (TM). Our concerns about TM's impact on informed consent do not derive from the belief that research subjects have poorer outcomes than persons receiving ordinary clinical care. Rather, we believe that subjects with TM cannot give an adequate informed consent to research participation, which harms their dignitary interests and their abilities to make meaningful decisions. Ironically, Miller and Joffe's approach ends up (...) largely embracing the very position that they inaccurately attribute to us: the belief that, with some exceptions, it is only the prospect of poorer outcomes that should motivate efforts to dispel TM. In the absence of empirical studies on the steps required to dispel TM and the impact of such procedures on subject recruitment, it is premature to surrender to the belief that TM must be widely tolerated in clinical research. (shrink)
Institutional review boards are almost universally considered to be overworked and understaffed. They also require substantial commitments of time and resources from their members. Although some surveys report average IRB memberships of 15 people or more, federal regulations require only five. We present data on IRB meetings at eight of the top 25 academic medical centers in the United States funded by the National Institutes of Health. These data indicate substantial contributions from primary reviewers and chairs during protocol discussions but (...) little from other members, which implies that it may be possible for smaller IRBs to accomplish the same tasks with no reduction in the quality of review. (shrink)
As a 2006 Institute of Medicine report highlights, surprisingly little empirical attention has been paid to how prisoners arrive at decisions to participate in modern research. With our study, we aimed to fill this gap by identifying a more comprehensive range of factors as reported by prisoners themselves during semistructured interviews. Our participants described a diverse range of motives, both favoring and opposing their eventual decision to join. Many are well-recognized considerations among nonincarcerated clinical research participants, including a desire for (...) various forms of personal benefit, altruism, and concern about study risks and inconveniences. However, a number of influences seem unique to prisoners. Participants did not report that they were not coerced into enrolling, and they have even been under pressure not to enroll. However, many sought to enroll in order to obtain access to better health care, raising a concern about whether they were unfairly exploited. (shrink)
Institutional Review Boards are mandated to carry out the requirements of the Common Rule, and it is widely agreed that they are appropriate and necessary mechanisms to ensure the ethical conduct of human research. In this paper, we suggest that the changes proposed in ANPRM, although generally helpful, fail to take into consideration how IRBs actually review applications and therefore do not adequately address some of the problems that may be leading to ineffective human subject protection.
The federal Common Rule, which governs the conduct of research with human subjects, specifies the criteria and procedures by which Institutional Review Boards should review such research. Although there is wide agreement that IRBs, or Research Ethics Committees as they are called in most of the world, are essential to assuring that human subjects research meets common standards of ethics, IRBs have always come under considerable criticism. Some have critiqued IRBs for using important resources inefficiently, including the large amount of (...) time researchers put into submitting applications, modifications, and reports and delaying the start of data collection within the limited time that grants and contracts provide. Others have critiqued the inconsistency of review of multi-site projects. (shrink)
Depression is often diagnosed in patients nearing the end of their lives and medication or psychotherapy is prescribed. In many cases this is appropriate. However, it is widely agreed that a health care professional should treat sick persons so as to improve their condition as they define improvement. This raises questions about the contexts in which treatment of depression in late life is appropriate. This article reviews a problematic case concerning the appropriateness of treatment in light of the literature in (...) bioethics. Specific attention is paid to the concept of authenticity and the role of suffering. Suffering is often the result of a situation in which one's self is damaged. In some circumstances, this suffering should not be seen as a symptom of illness but as a reflection, in a difficult life context, of the individual's authentic nature. Assessment of depression in the elderly must go beyond a symptom list and must consider both the context of the individual's situation and his or her authentic self. When the symptoms reflect the individual's assessment of the situation in the context of the authentic self, they may be "appropriate." However, even when the symptoms are appropriate, if they interfere with life assessment and adjustment, treatment should be considered. (shrink)