Understanding parental refusal of permission for child participation in surgical prospective trials.

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DOI: 10.1007/s00383-016-3878-1


PURPOSE: The success of prospective randomized trials relies on voluntary participation, which has been perceived as a barrier for successful trials in children who rely on parental permission. We sought to identify the reasons parents decline child participation to understand potential limitations in the consent process.

METHODS: A prospective observational study was conducted in 92 patients asked to participate in prospective randomized trials between 2012 and 2015. Parental reasons for refusal were documented.

RESULTS: The 92 refusals were distributed between studies investigating the management of circumcision, gastroschisis, pectus excavatum, appendicitis, pyloric stenosis, undescended testicles, abdominal abscess and gastroesophageal reflux. Reasons for refusal included preference of treatment path (37 %), inability to follow up (21 %), unspecified resistance to participate in research (18 %), preference to maintain independent surgeon decision (16 %), and desire for historically standard treatment (8 %). Of the families who opted to pursue a specific treatment arm rather than randomization, 35 % had prior experience with that treatment, 32 % had researched the procedure, 18 % wished to pursue the minimal intervention and 15 % did not specify.

CONCLUSIONS: Parental preference of therapy is the most common reason for refusal of study participation. This variable could be influenced with more effective explanation of study rationale and existing equipoise.

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Pediatric surgery international





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MeSH Keywords

Biomedical Research; Comprehension; General Surgery; Humans; Parents; Prospective Studies; Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic; Refusal to Participate


Consent; Participation; Pediatric research; Refusal

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