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Questioning approaches to consent in time critical obstetric trials: findings from a mixed-methods study

Deja, Elizabeth, Weeks, Andrew, Van Netten, Charlotte, Gamble, Carrol, Meher, Shireen, Gyte, Gillian, Lavender, Tina and Woolfall, Kerry (2024) 'Questioning approaches to consent in time critical obstetric trials: findings from a mixed-methods study'. BMJ Open, Vol 14, Issue 2.

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Trial legislation enables research to be conducted without prior consent (RWPC) in emergency situations, yet this approach has rarely been used in time-critical obstetric trials. This study explored views and experiences of antenatal recruitment and consent and RWPC in an emergency intrapartum randomised clinical trial.

Embedded, mixed-methods study within a trial, involving questionnaires, recorded recruitment discussions, interviews and focus groups in the first 13 months of trial recruitment (December 2020–January 2022). Setting: COPE is a double-blind randomised controlled trial, comparing the effectiveness of carboprost or oxytocin as first-line treatment of postpartum haemorrhage.

Two hundred and eighty-six people (190 women/96 birth partners), linked to 198/380 (52%) COPE recruits participated in the embedded study. Of these, 272 completed a questionnaire (178 women/94 birth partners), 22 were interviewed (19 women/3 birth partners) and 16 consent discussions with 12 women were recorded. Twenty-seven staff took part in three focus groups and nine staff were interviewed.

Participants recommended that information about the study should be more accessible antenatally for those who wish to be informed. Most women and staff did not think it would be appropriate to seek consent during pregnancy or early labour as it may cause ‘unnecessary panic’ and lead to research waste, as most women would not become eligible. There was support for the use of RWPC as COPE interventions are used in standard clinical practice and viewed as low risk. Women who were approached about the trial while having a postpartum haemorrhage also supported RWPC as they could not recall research discussions.

Findings support the use of RWPC for time-critical interventions, and raise questions about the appropriateness of other commonly used consent pathways, including antenatal consent and verbal assent.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: WA Public Health > Health Problems of Special Population Groups > WA 309 Women's health
WQ Obstetrics > WQ 20 Research (General)
Faculty: Department: Clinical Sciences & International Health > Clinical Sciences Department
Digital Object Identifer (DOI):
SWORD Depositor: JISC Pubrouter
Depositing User: JISC Pubrouter
Date Deposited: 19 Feb 2024 09:48
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2024 09:48


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