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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 109-110

How informed are our subjects?

Director, Scientia Clinical Services, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication28-Jun-2016

Correspondence Address:
Ravindra B Ghooi
Director, Scientia Clinical Services, G 801 Rohan Nilay, Aundh, Pune - 411 007, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2229-3485.184780

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How to cite this article:
Ghooi RB. How informed are our subjects?. Perspect Clin Res 2016;7:109-10

How to cite this URL:
Ghooi RB. How informed are our subjects?. Perspect Clin Res [serial online] 2016 [cited 2023 Feb 1];7:109-10. Available from: http://www.picronline.org/text.asp?2016/7/3/109/184780

Informed consent is the foundation, on which the edifice of ethics stands. While it is true that a good consent procedure does not necessarily lead to an ethical study, with a bad consent, an unethical study is inevitable. [1] The quality of consent is, therefore, a key, though not the sole parameter of ethical compliance, and remains a concern worldwide. [2]

Newer geographies such as the Gulf are seeing a surge of research. For a variety of reasons, sponsors are exploring newer site to conduct their studies. As clinical research activities have migrated to developing countries, ethical concerns have been raised about their conduct. While cultural differences may be a cause of this perception, there could also be a lower standard of ethical compliance. Research misconduct has become real possibility, with the "publish or perish" paradigm being followed to catch up with the developed world. [3]

The role of the informed consent form (ICF) in ensuring subject autonomy has been widely accepted. The quality of consent documents has been a topic of discussion for long, those that are used for both procedures and research. [4] Subjects are more particular and choosy while consenting for interventional rather than observational trials. [5] The importance of subjects understanding the consent document cannot be overestimated, and it is the most common cause of accepting or refusing to participate. [6]

A group of workers from the Gulf has done a detailed study of these factors. In the past, Nair and Ibrahim, studied the difference between industry-sponsored and nonsponsored trials on the basis of GCP compliance and readability of consent documents. [7] Nair et al., in this issue have extended the study to observational and interventional studies. They analyzed ICFs of studies conducted in the member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council and rated their compliance to regulatory requirements and readability. The compliance was calculated on the basis of presence or absence of the essential elements as per the local regulations, and readability using Flesch-Kincaid scale that reflects the ease of understanding.

That the authors have quantified compliance and readability of informed consent documents is of greater importance than the observations that they have made. Although the Flesch-Kincaid scale existed for long, its use in informed consent documents, at least in our part of the world is rare. Even in the western world, its use is not very common. A similar study conducted in 2010 demonstrated the shortcomings of consent used in dentistry. [8]

The shortcomings of consent documents are not a new thing. If subjects fail to understand the details of the study, the "informed consent" becomes a mere "consent." Yet there seems little interest in applying these scales for consents documents routinely. A picture is worth a thousand words and probably the use of illustrations would increase the comprehensions of subjects. This was first suggested way back in 1998, [9] and there are repeated calls to use multimedia in these documents. [10]

Attractive visual aid presentations have been prepared and tested as alternatives to the regular consent process; they have been found to increase the recruitment rate from 22% to 45%. [11] Web-based tools have been demonstrated to improve comprehension in schizophrenic patients, [12] though these may not be suitable for use in Indian settings. Multimedia-based informed consents or even PowerPoint-based informed consent could be used for improved comprehension, though the printed forms will be required to document the consent.

Informed consent documents are mostly prepared by the pharmaceutical industry, which sponsors most new drug studies. This industry is very well versed in the use of multimedia since most of their promotional material is in this form. When the industry can make and break opinions of medical professionals, it should be a minor thing to improve subject comprehension. Using these skills in preparing consent forms will benefit research subjects, and the subsequent increase in recruitment rates will benefit the sponsors themselves.

Although the informed consent form became mandatory after the Nuremberg code, it was first used by Walter Reed in 1900. [13] The form is thus 116 years old. Over time the consent forms have become longer and more complex; subjects, often very ill ones are expected to read and comprehend their meaning. It is the time, we put them through a thorough check for quality and readability or introduce a multimedia-based document.

   References Top

Kundapura SV, Poovaiah T, Ghooi RB. The big Cs of the informed consent form: Compliance and comprehension. Indian J Med Ethics 2013;10:232-7.  Back to cited text no. 1
Koonrungsesomboon N, Laothavorn J, Chokevivat V, Hirayama K, Karbwang J. SIDCER informed consent form: Principles and a developmental guideline. Indian J Med Ethics 2016;1:83-6.  Back to cited text no. 2
Al-Adawi S, Ali BH, Al-Zakwani I. Research Misconduct: The peril of publish or perish. Oman Med J 2016;31:5-11.  Back to cited text no. 3
Chohda E, Doddi S, Sundaramoorthy S, Manton RN, Ahad A, Sinha A, et al. An audit of consenting practices in a district general hospital. Can we improve? G Chir 2015;36:263-6.  Back to cited text no. 4
Thaker SJ, Figer BH, Gogtay NJ, Thatte UM. An audit of consent refusals in clinical research at a tertiary care center in India. J Postgrad Med 2015;61:257-63.  Back to cited text no. 5
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
Villamañán E, Ruano M, Fernández-de Uzquiano E, Lavilla P, González D, Freire M, et al. Informed consent in clinical research; Do patients understand what they have signed? Farm Hosp 2016;40:209-18.  Back to cited text no. 6
Nair SC, Ibrahim H. GCP compliance and readability of informed consent forms from an emerging hub for clinical trials. Perspect Clin Res 2015;6:104-8.  Back to cited text no. 7
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
Glick A, Taylor D, Valenza JA, Walji MF. Assessing the content, presentation, and readability of dental informed consents. J Dent Educ 2010;74:849-61.  Back to cited text no. 8
Jimison HB, Sher PP, Appleyard R, LeVernois Y. The use of multimedia in the informed consent process. J Am Med Inform Assoc 1998;5:245-56.  Back to cited text no. 9
Bhatt A. Improving quality of informed consent in clinical research. J Postgrad Med 2015;61:221-2.  Back to cited text no. 10
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
Yates BC, Dodendorf D, Lane J, LaFramboise L, Pozehl B, Duncan K, et al. Testing an alternate informed consent process. Nurs Res 2009;58:135-9.  Back to cited text no. 11
Harmell AL, Palmer BW, Jeste DV. Preliminary study of a web-based tool for enhancing the informed consent process in schizophrenia research. Schizophr Res 2012;141:247-50.  Back to cited text no. 12
Anderson AO. A Brief History of Military Contributions to Ethical Standards for Research Involving Human Subjects. Available from:   http://www.artnscience.us/Med_Ethics/index.html. [Last accessed on 2016 Jun 12].  Back to cited text no. 13

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