Background: Explaining technical terms in consent forms prior to seeking informed consent to recruit into trials can be challenging in developing countries, and more so when the studies are randomized controlled trials. This study was carried out to examine the opinions of researchers on ways of dealing with these challenges in developing countries.
Methods: Recorded in-depth interviews with 12 lecturers and five doctoral students, who had carried out research in developing countries, at a leading school of public health in the United Kingdom. A purposive, snowballing approach was used to identify interviewees.
Results: Researchers were divided on the feasibility of explaining technical trials in illiterate populations; the majority of them held the view that local analogies could be used to explain these technical terms. Others were of the opinion that this could not be done since it was too difficult to explain technical trials, such as randomized controlled trials, even to people in developed countries.
Conclusion: Researchers acknowledged the difficulty in explaining randomized controlled trials but it was also their perception that this was an important part of the ethics of the work of scientific research involving human subjects. These difficulties notwithstanding, efforts should be made to ensure that subjects have sufficient understanding to consent, taking into account the fact that peculiar situations in developing countries might compound this difficulty.