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LAY CONCEPTS IN INFORMED CONSENT TO BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH: THE CAPACITY TO UNDERSTAND AND APPRECIATE RISK

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ABSTRACT

Persons generally must give their informed consent to participate in research. To provide informed consent persons must be given information regarding the study in simple, lay language. Consent must be voluntary, and persons giving consent must be legally competent to consent and possess the capacity to understand and appreciate the information provided. This paper examines the relationship between the obligation to disclose information regarding risks and the requirement that persons have the capacity to understand and appreciate the information. There has been insufficient attention to the extent to which persons must be able to understand and appreciate study information in order to have their consent deemed valid when the information is provided in simple, lay language. This paper argues that (1) the capacity to understand and appreciate information that should be deemed necessary to give valid consent should be defined by the capacity of the typical, cognitively normal adult and (2) the capacity of the typical, cognitively normal adult to understand and appreciate the concept of risk is limited. Therefore, (3) all things being equal, potential subjects must possess a limited capacity to understand and appreciate risk to be deemed competent to consent to research participation. (4) In some cases investigators ought to require that persons possess a greater than typical capacity to understand and appreciate risk.
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Keywords: capacity; competence; informed consent; lay language; research ethics

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-08-01

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