Genetic research on rare familial disorders: consent and the blurred boundaries between clinical service and research
Journal of Medical Ethics 2008 September; 34(9): 690-694
Objectives: To study the consent process experienced by participants who are enrolled in a molecular genetic research study that aims to find new genetic mutations responsible for an apparently inherited disorder. Design: Semi-structured interviews and analysis/description of main themes. Participants: 78 members of 52 families who had been recruited to a molecular genetic study. Results: People were well informed about the goals, risks and benefits of the genetic research study but could not remember the consent process. They had mostly been recruited to take part by trusted clinicians or their relatives but had little memory of, or concern about signing consent forms. Families appeared to regard the research as a continuation of their, or their relatives', clinical care. Conclusions: Ethical review should be more flexible in its attitude to consent forms and written information sheets for some sorts of research. For rare genetic disease studies where research has been discussed fully within the clinical setting then the consent obtained at that time could suffice rather than needing extra consent at a later stage. However, clinician-researchers will need to ensure that their duty of care extends for the duration of the research and beyond. Keywords: documented consent; research ethics; genetic research; rare diseases
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