Letters

Informed consent in medical research

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.314.7092.1477 (Published 17 May 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:1477

Doctors are arrogant to think they need to debate issue of patient consent

  1. David E Bratt, Paediatriciana
  1. a 5 La Croix Avenue, Diego Martin, Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies
  2. b Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust, London W12 0NW
  3. c St George's Hospital Medical School, London SW17 0RE
  4. d University of Southampton, Primary Medical Care, Aldermoor Health Centre, Southampton SO16 5ST
  5. e BRI International, Battle, East Sussex TN33 0TX
  6. f Health Services Research Unit, Department of Public Health, University of Oxford, Oxford OX3 7LF
  7. Consumers' Advisory Group for Clinical Trials
  8. g 31 Regent Street, Rowhedge, Colchester CO5 7EA
  9. h International Health Programs, Key Centre for Women's Health, University of Melbourne, 211 Grattan Street, Carlton, Victoria 3053, Australia
  10. i Luton LU3 1PB
  11. j Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Addenbrookes Hospital, Hospital Box 226, Cambridge CB2 2QQ
  12. k Parkview Clinic, Birmingham B13 3QE
  13. l Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, University College London Medical School, London W1N 8AA
  14. m Moorfields Eye Hospital, London EC1V 2PD
  15. n Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh EH4 2XU
  16. o Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, Shrewsbury SY3 8XQ
  17. p Department of Surgery, Institute of Surgical Studies, University College London Medical School, Charles Bell House, London W1P 7LD
  18. q Wonford House Hospital, Exeter EX2 5AF
  19. r Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, Exeter EX2 5DW
  20. s University of Exeter, Postgraduate Medical School Department of Mental Health, Wonford House Hospital, Exeter EX2 5AF
  21. t Ipswich, Suffolk IP8 4NN
  22. u St Mary's Hospital, London W2 1NY
  23. v Charing Cross Hospital, London W6

    Editor—The editorial by Richard Smith raised the issue of publishing studies in which the researchers did not seek patients' consent.1 Firstly, I would think that of all the professions, only in medicine would there be any sort of debate about whether people need to be told that they, their bodies, their body fluids, their emotions, or whatever were to be subjects of research. This is arrogance on the part of doctors. Has anyone thought of asking these “patients” what their opinions are?

    Secondly, I also think that doctors in developing countries need to be especially careful about obtaining consent from patients for anything, not only research. I would like to know that when I read a paper from a developing country in the BMJ, I can be sure that the individuals on whom the research was done had given informed consent.

    References

    1. 1.

    No one has a monopoly on deciding what is ethical

    1. Pat Soutter, Past chairman, research ethics committeeb
    1. a 5 La Croix Avenue, Diego Martin, Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies
    2. b Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust, London W12 0NW
    3. c St George's Hospital Medical School, London SW17 0RE
    4. d University of Southampton, Primary Medical Care, Aldermoor Health Centre, Southampton SO16 5ST
    5. e BRI International, Battle, East Sussex TN33 0TX
    6. f Health Services Research Unit, Department of Public Health, University of Oxford, Oxford OX3 7LF
    7. Consumers' Advisory Group for Clinical Trials
    8. g 31 Regent Street, Rowhedge, Colchester CO5 7EA
    9. h International Health Programs, Key Centre for Women's Health, University of Melbourne, 211 Grattan Street, Carlton, Victoria 3053, Australia
    10. i Luton LU3 1PB
    11. j Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Addenbrookes Hospital, Hospital Box 226, Cambridge CB2 2QQ
    12. k Parkview Clinic, Birmingham B13 3QE
    13. l Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, University College London Medical School, London W1N 8AA
    14. m Moorfields Eye Hospital, London EC1V 2PD
    15. n Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh EH4 2XU
    16. o Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, Shrewsbury SY3 8XQ
    17. p Department of Surgery, Institute of Surgical Studies, University College London Medical School, Charles Bell House, London W1P 7LD
    18. q Wonford House Hospital, Exeter EX2 5AF
    19. r Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, Exeter EX2 5DW
    20. s University of Exeter, Postgraduate Medical School Department of Mental Health, Wonford House Hospital, Exeter EX2 5AF
    21. t Ipswich, Suffolk IP8 4NN
    22. u St Mary's Hospital, London W2 1NY
    23. v Charing Cross Hospital, London W6

      Editor—Having just come to the end of my term as chairman of our local research ethics committee, I would like to contribute to the debate on informed consent.

      I have no doubt that informed consent should be obtained in virtually all research studies. The difficulty comes in those rare instances when the need to obtain informed consent may be waived. Len Doyal has made a thoughtful and useful contribution to the debate,1 but it is interesting that, whereas I would have said that the study by Satish Bhagwanjee and colleagues qualified under his suggestions,2 he seems to imply that it would not.

      The commentaries of Rajendra Kale and Sheila McLean were critical of the two studies published in the BMJ, 2 3 but they failed to address the specific issues raised by the trials and resorted instead to vague generalisations. Neither was prepared to consider seriously the harm that can be done by not …

      View Full Text

      Sign in

      Log in through your institution

      Free trial

      Register for a free trial to thebmj.com to receive unlimited access to all content on thebmj.com for 14 days.
      Sign up for a free trial

      Subscribe