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Resources :: Guide :: Vulnerable and risk sensitive participants :: Vulnerable participants :: Potential for coerced consent :: Doctor/ Patient relationships in research :: Recruitment and consent

Recruitment and Consent

For doctor/patient studies, often the “who”, “where”, and “when” of the recruitment and consent process can make as big of an impact as the “what” that is presented.  For example, during their session, a psychologist approaches her client about a bipolar study after she just informed the patient that he has the mental illness. The emotion of the moment combined with the setting and the messenger could confuse the participant about what is research and what is therapy.  While it may not be inappropriate for the client to participate in the study, the way in which the client was informed about the study does not give the client the opportunity to make a completely voluntary decision.

In order to create a more voluntary environment, consider the following:

  • “Who:” Remove the doctor from the recruitment and consent procedure.  Instead, use someone who does not have an established relationship with the participant, such as a research assistant, or even a third party to recruit and obtain consent from the participants.   
  • “Where:” Contact participants in a location and manner where they will not confuse the message as part of a treatment recommendation.  For example, a phone call or letter for the initial recruitment may help patients to better understand that they are participating in a study. For some studies, there may be justification for contacting participants in the doctor’s office and not at home (i.e. patient is abused or does not want to disclose a medical condition). Consider talking to the patient in a private office or lobby instead of an exam room. 
  • “When:” If a patient is dealing with a life-changing diagnosis or other challenges regarding their care, be sensitive to the timing in which you approach them about the study.  Allow the patient the opportunity to consider the study in a rational manner and to have time to consult with family or friends.

For more information about working with participants who are dealing with a stressful health condition, please see Stressful Health Condition.  

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