Nothing to lose: a grounded theory study of patients' and healthcare professionals' perspectives of being involved in the consent process for oncology trials with non-curative intent

Mary Murphy, Eilís McCaughan, Matthew A Carson, Monica Donovan, Richard H Wilson, Donna Fitzsimons

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Clinical cancer research trials may offer little or no direct clinical benefit to participants where a cure is no longer possible. As such, the decision-making and consent process for patient participation is often challenging.

AIM: To gain understanding of how patients make decisions regarding clinical trial participation, from the perspective of both the patient and healthcare professionals involved.

METHODS: In-depth, face to face interviews using a grounded theory approach. This study was conducted in a regional Cancer Centre in the United Kingdom. Of the 36 interviews, 16 were conducted with patients with cancer that had non-curative intent and 18 with healthcare professionals involved in the consent process.

RESULTS: 'Nothing to lose' was identified as the core category that underpinned all other data within the study. This highlighted the desperation articulated by participants, who asserted trial participation was the 'only hope in the room'. The decision regarding participation was taken within a 'trusting relationship' that was important to both patients and professionals. Both were united in their 'fight against cancer'. These two categories are critical in understanding the decision-making/consent process and are supported by other themes presented in the theoretical model.

CONCLUSION: This study presents an important insight into the complex and ethically contentious situation of consent in clinical trials that have non-curative intent. It confirms that patients with limited options trust their doctor and frequently hold unrealistic hopes for personal benefit. It highlights a need for further research to develop a more robust and context appropriate consent process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166
JournalBMC palliative care
Volume19
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2020

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