Objectives: To investigate the recollections of parents consenting for their infants to be research subjects and determine their views about the need for consent.
Subjects: Parents of 154 sick newborn infants enrolled in a randomised trial in the early neonatal period. All parents had given written consent and received printed information.
Methods: A questionnaire and accompanying letter was sent to the parental home 18 months later. Non-responders were sent a further questionnaire and letter.
Results: Response rate was 64% (99/154). Some respondents (12%) did not remember being asked to consent to their baby joining a study, and a further 6% were unsure. Most of the respondents (79%) were happy, 13% neutral, and 8% unhappy with their decision to give consent. None felt heavy pressure to agree. Entering the trial caused 24% of respondents to feel more anxious, 56% neutral, and 20% less anxious about their baby. Most of the respondents (83%) would be unhappy to forgo the consent process for trials passed by the institutional ethics committee.
Conclusions: A significant proportion of parents who give written consent for a trial in the early neonatal period do not later remember having done so. Parents who have had experience of neonatal research would be unhappy for their baby to be enrolled in a study that had ethics committee approval without their consent being obtained.