Methodological Review| Volume 62, ISSUE 1, P183-191, July 2021

Alternative Consent Models in Pragmatic Palliative Care Clinical Trials


      Palliative care research raises a host of ethical concerns. Obtaining informed consent from seriously ill patients and their families is often perceived as an additional burden. Alternative approaches to traditional written informed consent reflect the changing nature of modern trial design, embracing real-world effectiveness and pragmatic clinical trials with those who are seriously ill. Ethicists, clinical investigators, and regulatory bodies have acknowledged the challenges to rigorous, meaningful, and generalizable research across diverse patient populations in real-world settings. The purpose of this article is to describe how these clinical trial designs have driven innovation in methods for achieving informed consent, with a focus on palliative care research. In this article, we describe and provide examples of consent waivers and three types of alternative approaches to consent, including broadcast notification and integrated and targeted consent. We also present our experiences in an ongoing palliative care clinical trial, specifically using broadcast notification. Working with participants and regulatory oversight organizations, investigators can address the limits of traditional written informed consent and adopt innovative consent models to advance the science of palliative care. Research is now needed to determine the impact of these differing consent models on clinical trial recruitment, enrollment, and retention, as well as participants’ informed understanding of their research participation using such models.

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