Background: A paucity of information is available regarding how caregivers of persons with post-traumatic disorders of consciousness (DOC) approach medical decision-making. Yet for evidence-based standards of care to be established, the onus is on caregivers' willingness to enroll their family members in clinical trials of novel tests and treatments (NTT).
Objective: To gather information regarding the beliefs and opinions of caregivers regarding NTT for DOC.
Methods: Exploratory qualitative data via focus groups from N = 17 caregivers of persons in post-traumatic DOC at both the acute (N = 7) and subacute (N = 10) phases of injury recovery. Supplemental survey data about knowledge of DOC.
Results: While attitudes toward NTT were generally favorable, two main themes emerged that influenced willingness to pursue NTT: patient and caregiver-specific factors, and the acquisition/use of information to guide decision-making. While survey data suggested a lack of knowledge about NTT, qualitative data revealed that this was better explained by different standards for knowledge, i.e., anecdotal versus empirical information.
Conclusions: Current findings could support discussion between healthcare providers and caregivers regarding medical decision-making as well as suggestions for how to increase the likelihood of caregivers being willing to enroll their family members in clinical trials of NTT.
Keywords: Disorders of consciousness; caregivers; minimally conscious state; qualitative; traumatic brain injury; vegetative state.