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Making a decision about trial participation: the feasibility of measuring deliberation during the informed consent process for clinical trials

Katie Gillies1*, Glyn Elwyn2 and Jonathan Cook3

Author Affiliations

1 Health Services Research Unit, University of Aberdeen, 3rd Floor, Health Sciences Building, Foresterhill, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, UK

2 The Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science, Dartmouth College, 37 Dewey Field Road, Hanover, NH 03755, USA

3 Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences, University of Oxford, Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre, Windmill Road, Oxford OX3 7HE, UK

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Trials 2014, 15:307  doi:10.1186/1745-6215-15-307

Published: 30 July 2014



Informed consent of trial participants is both an ethical and a legal requirement. When facing a decision about trial participation, potential participants are provided with information about the trial and have the opportunity to have any questions answered before their degree of ‘informed-ness’ is assessed, usually subjectively, and before they are asked to sign a consent form. Currently, standardised methods for assessing informed consent have tended to be focused on aspects of understanding and associated outcomes, rather than on the process of consent and the steps associated with decision-making.


Potential trial participants who were approached regarding participation in one of three randomised controlled trials were asked to complete a short questionnaire to measure their deliberation about trial participation. A total of 136 participants completed the 10-item questionnaire (DelibeRATE) before they made an explicit decision about trial participation (defined as signing the clinical trial consent form). Overall DelibeRATE scores were compared and investigated for differences between trial consenters and refusers.


No differences in overall DelibeRATE scores were identified. In addition, there was no significant difference between overall score and the decision to participate, or not, in the parent trial.


To our knowledge, this is the first study to prospectively measure the deliberation stage of the informed consent decision-making process of potential trial participants across different conditions and clinical areas. Although there were no differences detected in overall scores or scores of trial consenters and refusers, we did identify some interesting findings. These findings should be taken into consideration by those designing trials and others interested in developing and implementing measures of potential trial participants decision making during the informed consent process for research.

Trial registration

International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number (ISRCTN) Register ISRCTN60695184 (date of registration: 13 May 2009), ISRCTN80061723 (date of registration: 8 March 2010), ISRCTN69423238 (date of registration: 18 November 2010)

Clinical trial; Decision-making; Informed consent; Measure