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Background: Informed consent is required for participation in clinical trials, however trials involving adults who lack capacity to consent require different enrolment processes. A family member usually acts as a proxy to make a decision based on the patient’s ‘presumed will’, but these decisions can be challenging and families may experience an emotional and decisional burden. Decisions made on behalf of others are conceptually different from those made for ourselves. Innovations have been developed to improve informed consent processes for research, including a number of decision aids, however there are no interventions for proxies who are faced with more complex decisions. This article outlines the development of a novel decision aid to support families making decisions about research participation on behalf of an adult who lacks capacity to consent. Methods: Decision support interventions should be developed using rigorous and evidence-based methods. This intervention was developed using MRC guidance for the development of complex interventions, and a conceptual framework for the development and evaluation of decision aids for people considering taking part in a clinical trial. The intervention was informed by a systematic review and analysis of existing information provision. Previous qualitative research with families who acted as proxies enabled the development of a theoretical framework to underpin the intervention. The intervention was iteratively developed with the involvement of lay advisors and relevant stakeholders. Results: Previous research, theoretical frameworks, and decision aid development frameworks were used to identify and develop the intervention components. The decision aid includes information about the proxy’s role and utilises a values clarification exercise and decision support methods to enable a more informed and better-quality decision. Stakeholders, including those representing implementers and receivers of the intervention, contributed to the design and comprehensibility of the decision aid to ensure that it would be acceptable for use. Conclusions: Frameworks for the development of decision aids for people considering participating in a clinical trial can be used to develop interventions for family members acting as proxy decision-makers. The decision support tool is acceptable to users. Feasibility testing and outcome measure development is required prior to any evaluation of its effectiveness.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making

Publication Date