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- Institutional Review Board
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Institutional Review Board: Informed Consent for Research Subjects
Participants should be willing to take part in the study after being informed of all aspects of the study that might influence their decision to participate. Most research projects will satisfy this requirement by acquiring subjects' informed consent to participate in the study.
Documentation of Informed Consent
The Basic Elements of Informed Consent
Protection of Privacy
Informed consent shall be documented by the use of a written consent form approved by the IRB. The informed consent form must be signed by each subject or the subject’s legally authorized representative before participation in the research. If the subject is under the age of 18, the consent form must also be signed by a parent or legal guardian. A copy of the written consent shall be provided to the person signing the form.
The IRB may waive the requirement to obtain a signed consent form if it finds:
- The only record linking the subject and the research would be the consent document, and the principal risk of the research to subjects would be potential harm resulting from a breach of confidentiality. If the IRB makes such a finding, each subject must be asked whether the subject wants documentation linking the subject with the research, and the subject’s wishes will govern;
- The research presents no more than minimal risk or harm to subjects and involves no procedures for which written consent would be appropriate if conducted outside of the research context.
Where the documentation requirement has been waived, the IRB may require the investigators to provide subjects with a written statement regarding the research.
- A statement that the study involves research, an explanation of the purposes of the research and the expected duration of the subject’s participation, a description of the procedures to be followed, and identification of any procedures which are experimental.
- A description of any foreseeable risks or discomforts to the subject.
- A description of any benefits to the subject or to others which may reasonably be expected from the research.
- A disclosure of appropriate alternative procedures or courses of treatment, if any, that might be advantageous to the subject.
- A statement describing the extent, if any, to which confidentiality of records identifying the subject will be maintained.
- For research involving more than minimal risk, an explanation as to whether any medical treatments or counseling are available if injury or distress occurs and, if so, what they consist of, or where further information may be obtained.
- An explanation of whom to contact for answers to pertinent questions about the research and research subjects' rights, and whom to contact in the event of a research-related injury to the subject.
- A statement that participation is voluntary, refusal to participate will involve no penalty or loss of benefits to which the subject is otherwise entitled, and the subject may discontinue participation at any time without penalty or loss of benefits to which the subject is otherwise entitled.
In addition, where appropriate, one or more of the following elements shall be provided to the subject:
- A statement that the particular treatment or procedure may involve risks to the subject (or to the embryo or fetus, if the subject is or may become pregnant) which are currently unforeseeable.
- Anticipated circumstances under which the subject’s participation may be terminated by the investigator without regard to the subject’s consent.
- Any additional costs to the subject that may result form participation in the research.
- The consequences of a subject’s decision to withdraw from the research and procedures for orderly termination of participation by the subject.
- A statement that significant new findings developed during the course of the research which may relate to the subject’s willingness to continue participation will be provided to the subject.
- The approximate number of subjects involved in the study.
All information gathered in the course of a study must be kept confidential through coding or other means. Participants should be assured that their individual results will not be identified or used for any purpose other than that stated in the research proposal. If the information collected is potentially legally incriminating or publicly damaging, the researcher must ensure that participants' responses cannot be traced to their identities. It should go without saying that this Board is likewise bound to protect the privacy of the investigators whose proposals we evaluate.
Participants must be fully debriefed (informed and their well-being ensured) after the completion of the research procedures. If the design necessitated deception or incomplete information, participants must be told the actual purpose of the study and the reason for the deception or omission. If giving complete information seems at odds with ensuring the participant's well-being, the researcher must explain and justify the chosen course of action in the proposal. If the subject's state or mood was changed during the course of the study, these effects must be removed.
Some studies require that participants not know everything about the experiment in advance (e.g., double-blind studies require that participants not know what condition they are in; studies of prejudice are not likely to be valid if participants know they are being tested for prejudice).
It is essential for the researcher to justify any design that does not permit the participant to be fully informed or that requires deception. Deception should not be used if other effective methods are possible. The researcher should give participants as much relevant information as can be shared without undermining the experiment. The information should be sufficient for the participant to make a reasoned decision about participating. When deception is used, the researcher has an increased responsibility for the participant's welfare.
The IRB may approve a consent procedure that does not include, or which alters, some or all of the elements of the informed consent specified above, or it may waive the requirement to obtain informed consent provided that the IRB finds and documents that:
- The research involves no more than minimal risk to the subjects;
- The waiver or alteration will not adversely affect the rights and welfare of the subjects;
- The research could not practicably be carried out without the waiver or alteration;
- Whenever appropriate, the subjects will be provided with additional pertinent information after participation.