Readability and Understanding of Informed Consent Among Participants With Low Incomes: A Preliminary Report

TitleReadability and Understanding of Informed Consent Among Participants With Low Incomes: A Preliminary Report
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsIttenbach, RF, Senft, EC, Huang, G, Corsmo, JJ, Sieber, JE
JournalJournal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics
Date PublishedDecember 1, 2015
Publication Languageeng
AbstractWith passage and implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act, more vulnerable segments of the U.S. population will now have access to regular health care and increased opportunities to participate in biomedical research. Yet, access to new groups brings with it new responsibilities for investigators, most importantly, reducing burdens for participants. Data collected through this small pilot study suggest several preliminary but potentially important findings when working with adults from low-income populations: First, while all participants read some parts of the consent forms (55%), only a minority reported reading the entire form (45%); second, 73% of participants reported understanding the study very well whereas only 27% reported understanding the study “a little”; third, there was a slight reported advantage of the simplified form over the regular form; however, this difference varied by section. Relatedly, other research has shown a high incidence of persons reading none of the consent form, but signing a statement that they have read and understood the study. Why does this occur? What are we teaching people when we request that they sign a consent form they have chosen not to read? What are the ethical and regulatory implications? Embedded ethics studies such as this one, although pilot and preliminary in nature, offer a number of advantages, such as stimulating additional scientific inquiry as well as challenging established institutional practices.