Authoritative international guidelines stipulate that for minors to participate in research, consent must be obtained from their parents or guardians. Significant numbers of mature minors, particularly in low-income settings, are currently being ruled out of research participation because their parents are unavailable or refuse to provide consent despite the possibility that they might wish to do so and that such research has the potential to be of real benefit. These populations are under-represented in all types of clinical research. We propose that, for research with a prospect of direct benefit that has been approved by relevant ethics committees, the default position should be that minors who are able to provide valid consent and meet the following criteria should be able to consent for themselves regardless of age and whether they have reached majority: the minor must be competent and mature relative to the decision; their consent must be voluntary and they must be relatively independent and used to decision making of comparable complexity. In addition, the context must be appropriate, the information related to the research must be provided in a manner accessible to the minor and the consent must be obtained by a trained consent taker in surroundings conducive for decision making by the minor. In this paper, we have argued that consent by mature minors to research participation is acceptable in some situations and should be allowed.
- Adolescent Health
- Tropical Paediatrics
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