Defining the "community" in community consultation for emergency research: findings from the community VOICES study

Soc Sci Med. 2008 Mar;66(6):1379-92. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.10.022. Epub 2008 Jan 30.


This article explores the application of the concept "community consultation" in the context of emergency medical research. Emergency medicine researchers are permitted, by the World Medical Association regulations and in the United States by U.S. Federal Regulations, to conduct emergency medical research on individuals with a life-threatening condition without obtaining their consent or that of their surrogates if certain conditions are met. Among these conditions is the requirement that researchers observe a number of special protections for the participants, including "community consultation and notification" prior to the initiation of such studies. The term "community" is not defined clearly and the process for conducting community consultations is not specified in these regulations. This study explores the feasibility of conducting community consultation in the context of emergency medical research by examining: research participant's definitions of community in New York, the factors that help shape their definitions of community and the people they would authorize to render participation decisions on their behalves. Findings from this study suggest that participants' definitions of community vary as a function of the purpose of the definition and the demographics of the respondents. Most significantly, this study reveals that although respondents can identify potential spokespersons for their communities, these community spokespersons were rarely identified as those who should have decision-making authority in medical emergencies. Finally, this article explores the implications of these findings for the definition of community as it applies to community consultation for emergency medical research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Community Participation*
  • Emergency Medicine / ethics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent / ethics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York City
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Social Identification
  • Third-Party Consent*
  • United States