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Processes of consent in research for adults with impaired mental capacity nearing the end of life: systematic review and transparent expert consultation (MORECare_Capacity statement)

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MORECare_Capacity, C J Evans, E Yorganci, P Lewis, J Koffman, K Stone, I Tunnard, B Wee, W Bernal, M Hotopf, I J Higginson

Original languageEnglish
Article number221
JournalBMC Medicine
Issue number1
Early online date22 Jul 2020
Accepted/In press3 Jun 2020
E-pub ahead of print22 Jul 2020
PublishedJul 2020


King's Authors


BACKGROUND: Involving adults lacking capacity (ALC) in research on end of life care (EoLC) or serious illness is important, but often omitted. We aimed to develop evidence-based guidance on how best to include individuals with impaired capacity nearing the end of life in research, by identifying the challenges and solutions for processes of consent across the capacity spectrum.

METHODS: Methods Of Researching End of Life Care_Capacity (MORECare_C) furthers the MORECare statement on research evaluating EoLC. We used simultaneous methods of systematic review and transparent expert consultation (TEC). The systematic review involved four electronic databases searches. The eligibility criteria identified studies involving adults with serious illness and impaired capacity, and methods for recruitment in research, implementing the research methods, and exploring public attitudes. The TEC involved stakeholder consultation to discuss and generate recommendations, and a Delphi survey and an expert 'think-tank' to explore consensus. We narratively synthesised the literature mapping processes of consent with recruitment outcomes, solutions, and challenges. We explored recommendation consensus using descriptive statistics. Synthesis of all the findings informed the guidance statement.

RESULTS: Of the 5539 articles identified, 91 met eligibility. The studies encompassed people with dementia (27%) and in palliative care (18%). Seventy-five percent used observational designs. Studies on research methods (37 studies) focused on processes of proxy decision-making, advance consent, and deferred consent. Studies implementing research methods (30 studies) demonstrated the role of family members as both proxy decision-makers and supporting decision-making for the person with impaired capacity. The TEC involved 43 participants who generated 29 recommendations, with consensus that indicated. Key areas were the timeliness of the consent process and maximising an individual's decisional capacity. The think-tank (n = 19) refined equivocal recommendations including supporting proxy decision-makers, training practitioners, and incorporating legislative frameworks.

CONCLUSIONS: The MORECare_C statement details 20 solutions to recruit ALC nearing the EoL in research. The statement provides much needed guidance to enrol individuals with serious illness in research. Key is involving family members early and designing study procedures to accommodate variable and changeable levels of capacity. The statement demonstrates the ethical imperative and processes of recruiting adults across the capacity spectrum in varying populations and settings.

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