In most medical research, informed consent has been accepted as ethically essential, despite being a relatively new concept in the United States.1,2 

Technological advances have permitted us to improve the process by which informed consent is obtained.

In addition, new methods of obtaining consent are offering options that can bridge the geographic distances between researcher and participant, while making study information more easily accessible.

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Recently, these innovative approaches were highlighted in a review article, written by Christine Grady, RN, PhD, from the Department of Bioethics, National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.1

Dr Grady spoke with Clinical Pain Advisor on the issue of informed consent, the advent of digital and electronic consent, and how the newer modalities are helping to bring the consent process into the 21st century.

Clinical Pain Advisor: Could you please describe the primary goal of informed consent in medical research?

Dr Grady: In my view, the main goal is to give people the information they need to make decisions as to whether or not to participate in medical research. In certain circumstances, the participant may have difficulty providing their own consent, which puts the responsibility on the investigators to find other ways to protect them. 

For instance, in some cases, a legally authorized representative can give permission for an individual to be part of a study if they are not able to consent for themselves.

This article originally appeared on The Cardiology Advisor