Purpose: To examine both the use of the consent document during the informed consent process for pediatric leukemia clinical trials, as well as relationships between the use of the document and parental understanding of essential elements of informed consent.
Methods: Participants included 140 parents of children diagnosed with pediatric leukemia. Informed consent conferences in which randomized clinical trials were discussed were observed, audiotaped, and coded for specific behaviors. Parents were also interviewed within 48 h of their participation in informed consent conferences.
Results: Observations revealed that 74% of cases included explanation of consent documents during consent conferences. Parents who reported that they read the consent document were more likely to understand differences between the clinical trial and off study therapy and were more likely to understand the right to withdraw. Reading of the consent document was not associated with understanding of voluntariness. In comparison to racial/ethnic majority parents, racial/ethnic minority parents were less likely to report that they read the consent document, understand voluntariness or the right to withdraw, and were less likely to be able to distinguish between the clinical trial and off study therapy. Low SES was associated with a lower probability of reading the consent document and being able to distinguish between clinical trials and off study therapy.
Conclusions: Attention to the importance of reading the consent document and improving communication during consent conferences is likely to enhance understanding of essential elements of informed consent.