Balancing recruitment and protection: children as research subjects

Issues Compr Pediatr Nurs. 2001 Oct-Dec;24(4):241-51. doi: 10.1080/014608601753260335.


Since 1994, federal guidelines for research in the United States have called for the inclusion of special populations, among them, children, in clinical research (National Institutes of Health, 1998). While the guidelines are intended to assure the fair distribution of research benefits to children, this federal mandate has created an ethical dilemma for researchers. Health professionals involved in research with children are called on to balance improving access and recruitment of children for clinical trials with the need to protect this very vulnerable population. Given this balancing act, it is important for nurse-researchers to be familiar with the issues of informed consent and assent with children. Our article reviews instances of exploitation of children in research, laws and federal regulations on informed consent and assent designed to protect children, and research on factors that affect children's capacity to consent/assent. We conclude with recommendations to assure a proper balance between the need to recruit children into clinical trials and the need to protect their rights as human subjects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child Advocacy* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / standards*
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Family / psychology
  • Human Experimentation* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Mental Competency / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Patient Advocacy* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Patient Selection*
  • Pediatric Nursing / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Pediatric Nursing / methods
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Scientific Misconduct
  • United States