Process Consent and Research with Older Persons Living with Dementia
Dewing, J. (2008) Process Consent and Research with Older Persons Living with Dementia, Research Ethics, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 59-64.
There is always a debate around consent in the context of research. Given the expansion of different approaches to qualitative research within dementia care, there is increasing consideration around consent in this context; particularly in research concerning the experiences of living with dementia and the care of persons with dementia. Specifically there is a drive to directly involve persons with dementia as they offer specific expertise concerning living with dementia. Additionally, capacity legislation strengthens the case for ensuring that persons with dementia are actively enabled to make their own decisions for as long as possible. This paper discusses an approach and method that can enable more persons who are living with dementia to participate in some types of research should they want to. Currently, most researchers rely on an extension of the traditional competency-based informed consent method and/or proxy consent or assent. However, related to the development of so-called person-centred and participatory research in dementia, there are now a number of academic publications on approaches and practical methods of ‘inclusionary’ consent. This paper considers the broader contextual influences on inclusionary consent and outlines the key aspects of such approaches based on the development of one specific method for including persons with dementia in consent processes. The method is based on the premise that, for persons with a dementia, informed consent becomes increasingly redundant and consequently exclusionary to them as persons. And even where capacity is said to no longer exist, persons with dementia are often able to make choices and make known their preferences about participating in research where the consent process is made specifically dementia-sensitive. Ethics committees can facilitate researchers both by supporting them when they need to and want to include persons with dementia in gerontological research and by challenging them to ensure that participation is genuine and starts with process consent.