How can informed consent be obtain from non-English speaking subjects?

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The informed consent document should be in language understandable to the subject (or authorized representative). When the consent interview is conducted in English, the consent document should be in English. When the study subject population includes non-English speaking people or the clinical investigator or the IRB anticipates that the consent interviews will be conducted in a language other than English, the IRB should require a translated consent document to be prepared and assure that the translation is accurate. A copy of the consent document must be given to each subject. In the case of non-English speaking subjects, this would be the translated document. While a translator may be helpful in facilitating conversation with a non-English speaking subject, routine ad hoc translation of the consent document should not be substituted for a written translation.

If a non-English speaking subject is unexpectedly encountered, investigators will not have a written translation of the consent document and must rely on oral translation. Investigators should carefully consider the ethical/legal ramifications of enrolling subjects when a language barrier exists. If the subject does not clearly understand the information presented, the subject's consent will not truly be informed and may not be legally effective. If investigators enroll subjects without an IRB approved written translation, a "short form" written consent document, in a language the subject understands, should be used to document that the informed consent was presented orally. The required signatures on a short form are stated in 21 CFR 50.27(b)(2).

About the Author
Proxima CRO Team
Stephanie Mull
Director of Project Management

Stephanie has over 20 years of clinical research experience working from the site, CRO and sponsor perspectives. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Concordia University in St. Paul, MN, with a degree in Natural Science - biology and math.

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