Ethics Along the Continuum of Research Involving Persons with Disorders of Consciousness

Neurocrit Care. 2023 Dec;39(3):565-577. doi: 10.1007/s12028-023-01708-2. Epub 2023 Mar 28.


Interest in disorders of consciousness (DoC) has grown substantially over the past decade and has illuminated the importance of improving understanding of DoC biology; care needs (use of monitoring, performance of interventions, and provision of emotional support); treatment options to promote recovery; and outcome prediction. Exploration of these topics requires awareness of numerous ethics considerations related to rights and resources. The Curing Coma Campaign Ethics Working Group used its expertise in neurocritical care, neuropalliative care, neuroethics, neuroscience, philosophy, and research to formulate an informal review of ethics considerations along the continuum of research involving persons with DoC related to the following: (1) study design; (2) comparison of risks versus benefits; (3) selection of inclusion and exclusion criteria; (4) screening, recruitment, and enrollment; (5) consent; (6) data protection; (7) disclosure of results to surrogates and/or legally authorized representatives; (8) translation of research into practice; (9) identification and management of conflicts of interest; (10) equity and resource availability; and (11) inclusion of minors with DoC in research. Awareness of these ethics considerations when planning and performing research involving persons with DoC will ensure that the participant rights are respected while maximizing the impact and meaningfulness of the research, interpretation of outcomes, and communication of results.

Keywords: Coma; Disorders of consciousness; Ethics; Research.

MeSH terms

  • Coma*
  • Communication
  • Consciousness
  • Consciousness Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Consciousness Disorders* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Prognosis