Informed Consent in Pediatric Oncology, A Systematic Review of Qualitative Literature
King Abdullah International Medical Research Center (KAIMRC), King Abdulaziz Medical City, Ministry of National Guard–Health Affairs, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Year of Publication:
Obtaining informed consent in pediatric cancer research can be subject to important ethical challenges because of the difficulty in distinguishing between care and research, which are interrelated. Pediatric oncologists also often conduct research, such as clinical trials, on their own patients, which may influence voluntary informed consent. This review aims to determine the ethical issues encountered in obtaining informed consent in pediatric oncology by identifying and summarizing the findings of existing qualitative studies on this topic.
A systematic review of qualitative studies was conducted. Medline, Embase, CINAHL, and PubMed were searched using the following terms: (oncolog* or cancer or hematol* or haematol* or leuk* or malign* or neoplasm*) and (child* or adolescent* or minor* or young people or pediatr* or paediatr*) and ethic* or moral*) and (qualitative or interview). Other sources were also mined to identify all relevant studies. The data analysis method used was thematic analysis.
At the end of the search process, 2361 studies were identified. Duplicates were removed and irrelevant studies were excluded. After screening the full text of the remaining studies against our inclusion and exclusion criteria, 13 studies were included in the qualitative analysis. All studies were qualitative studies using semistructured and structured interviews, qualitative analysis of open-ended questions, and observation of informed consent conferences. Four themes were identified: parental comprehension of the trial and medical terms, influence of parental distress on decision-making, no offer of an alternative treatment, and influence of the doctor–parent relationship.
Many ethical challenges affect the informed consent process. These challenges may include a lack of parental understanding, the potential influence of treating doctors, and vulnerability because of psychological status. All of these result in parents being unable to give well-informed and voluntary consent. Researchers are encouraged to adopt a stepwise approach during the informed consent process.