Informed consent approaches for clinical trial participation of infants with minor parents in sub-Saharan Africa: A systematic review
Angela De Pretto-Lazarova, Domnita Oana Brancati-Badarau, Christian Burri
Research Article | published 04 Aug 2020 PLOS ONE
Regulations are vague regarding the appropriate decision-maker and authority to consent for children of minor parents participating in clinical trials. In countries with high rates of underage mothers, such as in sub-Saharan Africa, this lack of guidance may affect the rights of potential paediatric participants already bearing increased vulnerability. It can also influence the recruitment and generalizability of the research. We provide evidence and discuss informed consent management in such cases to inform best practice.
Materials and methods
We searched PubMed/MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, and Google Scholar for articles published up to March 2019. In total, 4382 articles were screened, of which 16 met our inclusion criteria. Studies addressing informed consent in clinical trials involving children with minor parents in sub-Saharan Africa were included. We performed descriptive and qualitative framework analyses. The review was registered in PROSPERO: CRD42018074220.
Various informed consent approaches were reported. Articles supporting individual consent by minor parents based on emancipation or “mature minor” status lacked evidence in the context of research. National laws on medical care guided consent instead. When no laws or guidance existed an interpretation of the local decision-making culture, including community engagement and collaboration with local ethics committees, defined the informed consent approach.
The review emphasises that the implementation of informed consent for children with minor parents may be variable and hampered by absent or ambiguous clinical trial regulations, as well as divergent local realities. It may further be influenced by the research area and study-specific risks. Clear guidance is required to help address these challenges proactively in clinical trial planning. We provided a set of questions to be considered in the development of an ethically acceptable informed consent approach and proposed information that should be integrated into international clinical trial guidelines.