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Recruitment interventions for trials involving adults lacking capacity to consent: methodological and ethical considerations for designing Studies Within a Trial (SWATs)

Shepherd, Victoria ORCID:, Wood, Fiona ORCID:, Gillies, Katie, O'Connell, Abby, Martin, Adam and Hood, Kerenza ORCID: 2022. Recruitment interventions for trials involving adults lacking capacity to consent: methodological and ethical considerations for designing Studies Within a Trial (SWATs). Trials 23 , 756. 10.1186/s13063-022-06705-y

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Background: The number of interventions to improve recruitment and retention of participants in trials is rising, with a corresponding growth in randomised Studies Within Trials (SWATs) to evaluate their (cost-)efectiveness. Despite recognised challenges in conducting trials involving adults who lack capacity to consent, until now, no individual-level recruitment interventions have focused on this population. Following the development of a decision aid for family members making non-emergency trial participation decisions on behalf of people with impaired capacity, we have designed a SWAT to evaluate the decision aid in a number of host trials (CONSULT). Unlike in recruitment SWATs to date, the CONSULT intervention is aimed at a ‘proxy’ decision-maker (a family member) who is not a participant in the host trial and does not receive the trial intervention. This commentary explores the methodological and ethical considerations encountered when designing such SWATs, using the CONSULT SWAT as a case example. Potential solutions to address these issues are also presented. Discussion: We encountered practical issues around informed consent, data collection, and follow-up which involves linking the intervention receiver (the proxy) with recruitment and retention data from the host trial, as well as issues around randomisation level, resource use, and maintaining the integrity of the host trial. Unless addressed, methodological uncertainty about diferential recruitment and heterogeneity between trial populations could potentially limit the scope for drawing robust inferences and harmonising data from diferent SWAT host trials. Proxy consent is itself ethically complex, and so when conducting a SWAT which aims to disrupt and enhance proxy consent decisions, there are additional ethical issues to be considered. Conclusions: Designing a SWAT to evaluate a recruitment intervention for non-emergency trials with adults lacking capacity to consent has raised a number of methodological and ethical considerations. Explicating these challenges, and some potential ways to address them, creates a starting point for discussions about conducting these potentially more challenging SWATs. Increasing the evidence base for the conduct of trials involving adults lacking capacity to consent is intended to improve both the ability to conduct these trials and their quality, and so help build research capacity for this under-served population

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Centre for Trials Research (CNTRR)
Additional Information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made.
Publisher: BioMed Central
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 2 September 2022
Date of Acceptance: 30 August 2022
Last Modified: 23 May 2023 14:56

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