Ethical Issues of Informed Consent in Acute StrokeDemarquay G.a · Derex L.a · Nighoghossian N.a · Adeleine P.b · Philippeau F.a · Honnorat J.a · Trouillas P.a
aService d’Urgences Neurovasculaires, Hôpital Neurologique de Lyon, et bService de Biostatistique, Hospices Civils de Lyon, Lyon, France
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Background: Many patients may be mentally incompetent or physically unable to give informed consent at the acute stage of stroke. Accordingly, we aimed to investigate the modalities of informed consent in urgent therapeutic stroke trials, the awareness of patients and relatives regarding stroke clinical trials and the impact of decision making on patients and relatives. Methods: We present a study of 56 acute ischemic stroke patients who were randomized in 4 trials (2 trials testing neuroprotective agents, 1 testing thrombolysis and 1 testing antithrombotic agents). A standardized questionnaire was used to assess the modalities of informed consent in this setting. Results: The mean age was 67.1 (SD 12.6) years. The mean baseline Scandinavian Stroke Scale (SSS) score was 23.8 (SD 10.5). Only 13 patients (23% of cases) gave consent while relatives gave consent for 43 patients (77%). The main reason for not getting consent from the patient was aphasia in 29 patients (67.4%). Multiple logistic regression analysis showed that the two independent factors influencing the ability to give consent are age and baseline neurological deficit as assessed by the SSS score. Concerning the psychological impact of consent, none of the 10 patients who answered our questionnaire declared feeling uncomfortable when giving consent, while 7 out of the 13 relatives who could be reached declared they felt uncomfortable, mainly because of the psychological stress induced by urgent decision making. Conclusions: Our study emphasizes the specific ethical difficulties of informed consent in the setting of acute stroke research. Only a minority of patients are able to give consent at the acute stage. Increasing age and neurological deficit are independent predictors of inability to give consent. Thus, the responsibility for consent usually relies on relatives with potential inaccuracy of decision concerning the patient’s wish or even conflict of interest. Further evaluation of the psychological impact of decision on relatives is needed in this setting of acute stroke.
© 2005 S. Karger AG, Basel
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