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'Participating In Clinical Trials: The Right To Information'

Patients may, sometimes unwittingly, be participating in clinical trials (medical research, for example testing the efficiency of a drug in a group of patients with a control group of patients not receiving the drug). The position on consent for medical research varies according to whether the research is expected to benefit the patient or not. Where no benefit to the individual patient is expected, Department of Health guidelines state that a full explanation of the proposed procedure should be given and the patient must feel free to withdraw at any stage. Where research is expected to benefit the patient, although consent should ordinarily be sought, there are sometimes circumstances in which it is inappropriate or even inhumane to explain the details and seek consent (for example if a person does not wish to know they have a fatal illness). Every hospital or institution where clinical trials are carried out has its own ethical committee which oversees the conduct of medical research.

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