Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters

Information and consent forms should use short words and sentences

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.312.7024.186 (Published 20 January 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:186
  1. Naomi Pfeffer
  1. Member Consumers for Ethics in Research, PO Box 1365, London N16 0BW

    EDITOR,—In their article on how to get patients' consent to enter clinical trials Elizabeth Wager and colleagues mention the need for short sentences in forms that give information about consent.1 They do not discuss the merits of using short words. The model consent form that they reproduce uses long words and phrases when short ones would easily do. It also begins by assuming literacy (“Have you read the information provided?”) although many people cannot read English or speak little English and may not have been given a translated form. Forms with short words can aid oral explanations that make sense to people from a wide range of ages and abilities. Informed consent can depend as much on professionals' clear explanations as on patients' understanding.

    The national forum Consumers for Ethics in Research publishes a booklet on preparing information for people who are asked to help with medical research; it suggests clear phrases to explain research concepts and techniques.2

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