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Parental opinion of consent in neonatal research
  1. Karen Nora McCarthy1,
  2. Niamh C Ryan1,
  3. Darragh T O’Shea1,
  4. Kieran Doran2,
  5. Richard Greene3,
  6. Vicki Livingstone1,
  7. C Anthony Ryan1,
  8. Geraldine B Boylan1,
  9. Eugene M Dempsey1,4
  1. 1 Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Cork University Maternity Hospital, Cork, Ireland
  2. 2 School of Medicine and Health, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
  3. 3 Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Cork University Maternity Hospital, Cork, Ireland
  4. 4 INFANT, Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Karen Nora McCarthy, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Cork University Maternity Hospital, Cork, Ireland; karen.n.mccarthy{at}


Background Neonatal research, particularly neonatal emergency research is a challenging area, notably in relation to obtaining valid prospective informed consent. The aim of this study is to determine parental perceptions of the consent process involved in performing research in newborn care, to explore methods used to obtain consent and their acceptability to parents.

Methods A parental questionnaire was developed that examined attitudes towards research and hypothetical research studies, in which the acceptability of various methods of consent was examined (informed, waived, deferred). These research scenarios were of varying time sensitivity and perceived risk level. The study setting was an Irish maternity hospital.

Results There were 600 responses to the questionnaire. In 93% of cases, parents felt that their involvement in the consent process was essential. In emergency situations, 52% felt full prospective informed consent was necessary; however, almost 28% of parents would feel pressure to consent. Most (75%) parents would prefer to be approached to discuss neonatal research studies antenatally, irrespective of study type and 40% of parents felt that neonates involved in research studies received overall better care. Acceptability of deferred consent was greater than waived, and was highest for the more emergency-based scenarios presented.

Discussion Parents feel that they should play a central role in research involving their children. There were differences in the acceptability of various consent methods with strongest agreement for informed consent and lowest agreement for waived consent. Parents were more willing to accede to deferred consent in the cardiopulmonary resuscitation scenario study. These findings provide useful insights to consent strategies in future newborn research studies.

  • neonatology
  • health services research
  • ethics

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  • Funding This work is supported by a Science Foundation Ireland Research Award (INFANT-12/RC/2272).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Clinical Research Ethics Commitee of the Cork Teaching Hospitals.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.