Research participation by people with intellectual disability and mental health issues: an examination of the processes of consent

Int J Ment Health Nurs. 2014 Dec;23(6):513-24. doi: 10.1111/inm.12079. Epub 2014 May 30.


Balancing the demands of research and ethics is always challenging, and even more so when recruiting vulnerable groups. Within the context of current legislation and international human rights declarations, it is strongly advocated that research can and must be undertaken with all recipients of health-care services. Research in the field of intellectual disability presents particular challenges in regards to consenting processes. This paper is a reflective overview and analysis of the complex processes undertaken, and events that occurred in gaining informed consent from people with intellectual disability to participate in a study exploring their experiences of being an inpatient in mental health hospitals within Aotearoa/New Zealand. A framework based on capacity, information, and voluntariness is presented, with excerpts from the field provided to explore consenting processes. The practical implications of the processes utilized are then discussed in order to stimulate debate regarding clearer and enhanced methods of gaining informed consent from people with intellectual disability.

Keywords: capacity; consent; dual disability; intellectual disability; mental health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Informed Consent* / psychology
  • Intellectual Disability / complications
  • Intellectual Disability / psychology*
  • Mental Competency / psychology
  • Mental Disorders / complications*
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • New Zealand
  • Research Subjects* / psychology