Informed consent comprehension in African research settings.

Afolabi, MO; Okebe, JU; McGrath, N; Larson, HJ; Bojang, K; Chandramohan, D; (2014) Informed consent comprehension in African research settings. Tropical medicine & international health, 19 (6). pp. 625-642. ISSN 1360-2276 DOI:

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OBJECTIVE: Previous reviews on participants' comprehension of informed consent information have focused on developed countries. Experience has shown that ethical standards developed on Western values may not be appropriate for African settings where research concepts are unfamiliar. We undertook this review to describe how informed consent comprehension is defined and measured in African research settings.<br/> METHODS: We conducted a comprehensive search involving five electronic databases: Medline, Embase, Global Health, EthxWeb and Bioethics Literature Database (BELIT). We also examined African Index Medicus and Google Scholar for relevant publications on informed consent comprehension in clinical studies conducted in sub-Saharan Africa. 29 studies satisfied the inclusion criteria; meta-analysis was possible in 21 studies. We further conducted a direct comparison of participants' comprehension on domains of informed consent in all eligible studies.<br/> RESULTS: Comprehension of key concepts of informed consent varies considerably from country to country and depends on the nature and complexity of the study. Meta-analysis showed that 47% of a total of 1633 participants across four studies demonstrated comprehension about randomisation (95% CI 13.9-80.9%). Similarly, 48% of 3946 participants in six studies had understanding about placebo (95% CI 19.0-77.5%), while only 30% of 753 participants in five studies understood the concept of therapeutic misconception (95% CI 4.6-66.7%). Measurement tools for informed consent comprehension were developed with little or no validation. Assessment of comprehension was carried out at variable times after disclosure of study information. No uniform definition of informed consent comprehension exists to form the basis for development of an appropriate tool to measure comprehension in African participants.<br/> CONCLUSIONS: Comprehension of key concepts of informed consent is poor among study participants across Africa. There is a vital need to develop a uniform definition for informed consent comprehension in low literacy research settings in Africa. This will be an essential step towards developing appropriate tools that can adequately measure informed consent comprehension. This may consequently suggest adequate measures to improve the informed consent procedure.<br/>

Item Type: Article
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases > Dept of Disease Control
Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health > Dept of Infectious Disease Epidemiology
Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases > Dept of Clinical Research
PubMed ID: 24636078
Web of Science ID: 335234000002


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