Background: Good, fully informed consent is critical to the ethical conduct of clinical cancer research. The authors examined clinician perspectives on informed consent for pediatric research by surveying clinicians at five major medical centers that routinely enroll patients in Children's Cancer Group studies.
Methods: Building on a pilot study, a questionnaire was designed to elicit clinicians' general opinions, approaches, and suggestions related to informed consent in pediatric leukemia trials. Questionnaires were mailed to 132 clinicians. Eighty-nine questionnaires were returned, along with 13 nonparticipant forms notifying us of the clinician's inability to participate because of a lack of experience in pediatric informed consent. The response rate was 75%.
Results: Providing information so that families can decide about study entry was ranked as the most important goal of the informed consent process, whereas parents' state of shock was rated the most significant obstacle to good informed consent. Clinicians cited high levels of parental comprehension of key aspects of clinical research studies and reported information overload and increased anxiety as effects of the informed consent process on parents. Several key items were associated with clinicians' gender, race, and professional experience. Finally, one open-ended question yielded 126 suggestions for how to improve the informed consent process that were grouped into 10 meaningful categories.
Conclusions: Clinicians report a range of approaches, opinions, concerns, and suggestions for improving the informed consent process. The article proposes that their views and suggestions be integrated with those of parents and patients in attempts to survey and improve informed consent in pediatric oncology.
Copyright 2001 American Cancer Society.