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2.  How Are the Interests of Incapacitated Research Participants Protected through Legislation? An Italian Study on Legal Agency for Dementia Patients 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(6):e11150.
Background
Patients with dementia may have limited capacity to give informed consent to participate in clinical research. One possible way to safeguard the patients' interests in research is the involvement of a proxy in the recruitment process. In Italy, the system of proxy is determined by the courts. In this study we evaluate the timing for appointment of a legal proxy in Italy and identify predictive variables of appointment.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Subjects were recruited among the outpatients seeking medical advice for cognitive complaints at the Centre for Research and Treatment of Cognitive Dysfunctions, University of Milan, “Luigi Sacco” Hospital.
The Centre was participating to the AdCare Study, a no-profit randomised clinical trial coordinated by the Italian National Institute of Health. The requirement that informed consent be given by a legal representative dramatically slowed down the recruitment process in AdCare, which was prematurely interrupted. The Centre for Research and Treatment of Cognitive Dysfunctions collected data on the timing required to appoint the legal representatives. Patients diagnosed with dementia and their caregivers were provided information on the Italian law on legal agency (law 6/2004). At each scheduled check-up the caregiver was asked whether she/he had applied to appoint a legal proxy for the patient and the time interval between the presentation of the law, the registration of the application at the law court chancellery and the sentence of appointment was registered. The study involved 169 demented patients. Seventy-eight patients (46.2%) applied to appoint a legal proxy. These subjects were usually younger, had been suffering from dementia for a longer time, had less than two children and made more use of memantine. The mean interval time between the presentation of the law and the patients' application to the law court chancellery was two months. The mean interval time between the patient's application to the law court chancellery and the sentence of appointment was four months.
Conclusions/Significance
In Italy the requirement that legal representatives be appointed by the courts slows down subjects' participation in research. Other procedures for legal agency of the incapacitated patients may be adopted, taking as examples other EU countries' systems.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0011150
PMCID: PMC2886844  PMID: 20585400
3.  Nonurgent patients in the emergency department? A French formula to prevent misuse 
Background
Overcrowding in emergency department (EDs) is partly due to the use of EDs by nonurgent patients. In France, the authorities responded to the problem by creating primary care units (PCUs): alternative structures located near hospitals. The aims of the study were to assess the willingness of nonurgent patients to be reoriented to a PCU and to collect the reasons that prompted them to accept or refuse.
Methods
We carried out a cross sectional survey on patients' use of EDs. The study was conducted in a French hospital ED. Patients were interviewed about their use of health services, ED visits, referrals, activities of daily living, and insurance coverage status. Patients' medical data were also collected.
Results
85 patients considered nonurgent by a triage nurse were asked to respond to a questionnaire. Sex ratio was 1.4; mean age was 36.3 +/- 11.7 years.
Most patients went to the ED autonomously (76%); one third (31.8%) had consulted a physician. The main reasons for using the ED were difficulty to get an appointment with a general practitioner (22.3%), feelings of pain (68.5%), and the availability of medical services in the ED, like imaging, laboratory tests, and drug prescriptions (37.6%). Traumatisms and wounds were the main medical reasons for going to the ED (43.5%).
More than two-thirds of responders (68%) were willing to be reoriented towards PCUs. In the multivariate analysis, only employment and the level of urgency perceived by the patient were associated with the willingness to accept reorientation. Employed persons were 4.5 times more likely to accept reorientation (OR = 4.5 CI (1.6-12.9)). Inversely, persons who perceived a high level of urgency were the least likely to accept reorientation (OR = 0.9 CI (0.8-0.9).
Conclusions
Our study provides information on the willingness of ED patients to accept reorientation and shows the limits of its feasibility. Alternative structures such as PCUs near the ED seem to respond appropriately to the growing demands of nonurgent patients. Reorientation, however, will be successful only if the new structures adapt their opening hours to the needs of nonurgent patients and if their physicians can perform specific technical skills.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-66
PMCID: PMC2846926  PMID: 20230602

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