Appropriate Inclusion of Adult Research Participants with Intellectual Disability: An In-depth Review of Guidelines and Policy Statements.
28 Aug 2022-Accountability in Research-pp 1-22
TL;DR: There appears to be room for further description of the importance of careful capacity assessments and solid assent requirements in ethical research guidance documentation to promote meaningful participation of adults with intellectual disability.
Abstract: The history of human-subject experimentation has shown the need for safeguards to protect participants from abuse. Balancing participant protection with adequate representation of the adult intellectual disability population in research presents an important challenge. Our study aimed to analyse guidance on the appropriate inclusion of adults with intellectual disability who are or are not able to consent to biomedical research participation. Terminology, consent and type of ethically acceptable research provisions relevant to adult participants with intellectual disability were comprehensively reviewed in a selection of 17 international and national ethical research guidelines and statements. Most guidelines and statements recommend that adult participants with ID who are unable to consent be included when it is not possible to conduct the same research with adults capable of independent decision-making, or when there is therapeutic benefit and only minimal risk. Instead of naming specific requirements, the Australian statement stands out by asserting the "individual right" to participate. Assent requirements for incapacitated adults are not explicitly mentioned in most documents reviewed. There appears to be room for further description of the importance of careful capacity assessments and solid assent requirements in ethical research guidance documentation to promote meaningful participation of adults with intellectual disability.
TL;DR: An issue concerning the criteria for tic disorders is highlighted, and how this might affect classification of dyskinesias in psychotic spectrum disorders.
Abstract: Given the recent attention to movement abnormalities in psychosis spectrum disorders (e.g., prodromal/high-risk syndromes, schizophrenia) (Mittal et al., 2008; Pappa and Dazzan, 2009), and an ongoing discussion pertaining to revisions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders (DSM) for the upcoming 5th edition, we would like to take this opportunity to highlight an issue concerning the criteria for tic disorders, and how this might affect classification of dyskinesias in psychotic spectrum disorders. Rapid, non-rhythmic, abnormal movements can appear in psychosis spectrum disorders, as well as in a host of commonly co-occurring conditions, including Tourette’s Syndrome and Transient Tic Disorder (Kerbeshian et al., 2009). Confusion can arise when it becomes necessary to determine whether an observed movement (e.g., a sudden head jerk) represents a spontaneous dyskinesia (i.e., spontaneous transient chorea, athetosis, dystonia, ballismus involving muscle groups of the arms, legs, trunk, face, and/or neck) or a tic (i.e., stereotypic or patterned movements defined by the relationship to voluntary movement, acute and chronic time course, and sensory urges). Indeed, dyskinetic movements such as dystonia (i.e., sustained muscle contractions, usually producing twisting and repetitive movements or abnormal postures or positions) closely resemble tics in a patterned appearance, and may only be visually discernable by attending to timing differences (Gilbert, 2006). When turning to the current DSM-IV TR for clarification, the description reads: “Tic Disorders must be distinguished from other types of abnormal movements that may accompany general medical conditions (e.g., Huntington’s disease, stroke, Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, Wilson’s disease, Sydenham’s chorea, multiple sclerosis, postviral encephalitis, head injury) and from abnormal movements that are due to the direct effects of a substance (e.g., a neuroleptic medication)”. However, as it is written, it is unclear if psychosis falls under one such exclusionary medical disorder. The “direct effects of a substance” criteria, referencing neuroleptic medications, further contributes to the uncertainty around this issue. As a result, ruling-out or differentiating tics in psychosis spectrum disorders is at best, a murky endeavor. Historically, the advent of antipsychotic medication in the 1950s has contributed to the confusion about movement signs in psychiatric populations. Because neuroleptic medications produce characteristic movement disorder in some patients (i.e. extrapyramidal side effects), drug-induced movement disturbances have been the focus of research attention in psychotic disorders. However, accumulating data have documented that spontaneous dyskinesias, including choreoathetodic movements, can occur in medication naive adults with schizophrenia spectrum disorders (Pappa and Dazzan, 2009), as well as healthy first-degree relatives of chronically ill schizophrenia patients (McCreadie et al., 2003). Taken together, this suggests that movement abnormalities may reflect pathogenic processes underlying some psychotic disorders (Mittal et al., 2008; Pappa and Dazzan, 2009). More specifically, because spontaneous hyperkinetic movements are believed to reflect abnormal striatal dopamine activity (DeLong and Wichmann, 2007), and dysfunction in this same circuit is also proposed to contribute to psychosis, it is possible that spontaneous dyskinesias serve as an outward manifestation of circuit dysfunction underlying some schizophrenia-spectrum symptoms (Walker, 1994). Further, because these movements precede the clinical onset of psychotic symptoms, sometimes occurring in early childhood (Walker, 1994), and may steadily increase during adolescence among populations at high-risk for schizophrenia (Mittal et al., 2008), observable dyskinesias could reflect a susceptibility that later interacts with environmental and neurodevelopmental factors, in the genesis of psychosis. In adolescents who meet criteria for a prodromal syndrome (i.e., the period preceding formal onset of psychotic disorders characterized by subtle attenuated positive symptoms coupled with a decline in functioning), there is sometimes a history of childhood conditions which are also characterized by suppressible tics or tic like movements (Niendam et al., 2009). On the other hand, differentiating between tics and dyskinesias has also complicated research on childhood disorders such as Tourette syndrome (Kompoliti and Goetz, 1998; Gilbert, 2006). We propose consideration of more explicit and operationalized criteria for differentiating tics and dyskinesias, based on empirically derived understanding of neural mechanisms. Further, revisions of the DSM should allow for the possibility that movement abnormalities might reflect neuropathologic processes underlying the etiology of psychosis for a subgroup of patients. Psychotic disorders might also be included among the medical disorders that are considered a rule-out for tics. Related to this, the reliability of movement assessment needs to be improved, and this may require more training for mental health professionals in movement symptoms. Although standardized assessment of movement and neurological abnormalities is common in research settings, it has been proposed that an examination of neuromotor signs should figure in the assessment of any patient, and be as much a part of the patient assessment as the mental state examination (Picchioni and Dazzan, 2009). To this end it is important for researchers and clinicians to be aware of differentiating characteristics for these two classes of abnormal movement. For example, tics tend to be more complex than myoclonic twitches, and less flowing than choreoathetodic movements (Kompoliti and Goetz, 1998). Patients with tics often describe a sensory premonition or urge to perform a tic, and the ability to postpone tics at the cost of rising inner tension (Gilbert, 2006). For example, one study showed that patients with tic disorders could accurately distinguish tics from other movement abnormalities based on the subjective experience of some voluntary control of tics (Lang, 1991). Another differentiating factor derives from the relationship of the movement in question to other voluntary movements. Tics in one body area rarely occur during purposeful and voluntary movements in that same body area whereas dyskinesia are often exacerbated by voluntary movement (Gilbert, 2006). Finally, it is noteworthy that tics wax and wane in frequency and intensity and migrate in location over time, often becoming more complex and peaking between the ages of 9 and 14 years (Gilbert, 2006). In the case of dyskinesias among youth at-risk for psychosis, there is evidence that the movements tend to increase in severity and frequency as the individual approaches the mean age of conversion to schizophrenia spectrum disorders (Mittal et al., 2008). As revisions to the DSM are currently underway in preparation for the new edition (DSM V), we encourage greater attention to the important, though often subtle, distinctions among subtypes of movement abnormalities and their association with psychiatric syndromes.
TL;DR: Vulnerability is one of the least examined concepts in research ethics as discussed by the authors, and it has lost its power in the context of research, particularly international research, that many groups are now considered to be vulnerable.
Abstract: Vulnerability is one of the least examined concepts in research ethics. Vulnerability was linked in the Belmont Report to questions of justice in the selection of subjects. Regulations and policy documents regarding the ethical conduct of research have focused on vulnerability in terms of limitations of the capacity to provide informed consent. Other interpretations of vulnerability have emphasized unequal power relationships between politically and economically disadvantaged groups and investigators or sponsors. So many groups are now considered to be vulnerable in the context of research, particularly international research, that the concept has lost force. In addition, classifying groups as vulnerable not only stereotypes them, but also may not reliably protect many individuals from harm. Certain individuals require ongoing protections of the kind already established in law and regulation, but attention must also be focused on characteristics of the research protocol and environment that present ethical challenges.
TL;DR: In this article, the authors summarized what is known about health disparities from reports and research and provided direction on what to do to reduce these disparities among adults with intellectual disabilities, including use of data to educate decision makers, attention to social determinants and a life-course model.
Abstract: Background Recent attention to health of people with intellectual disabilities has used a health disparities framework. Building on historical context, the paper summarizes what is known about health disparities from reports and research and provide direction on what to do to reduce these disparities among adults with intellectual disabilities. Methods The present authors examined literature from 2002 to 2011 on health disparities and people with disabilities looking for broad themes on documenting disparities and on research approaches and methods. Results Multiple countries published reports on health of people with intellectual disabilities. Researchers summarized existing research within a health disparities framework. A number of promising methodologies are identified such as health services research, health indicators, enhanced surveillance and mixed-methods. Conclusions Strategies to reduce health disparities include use of data to educate decision makers, attention to social determinants and a life-course model and emphasis on leveraging inclusion in mainstream services where possible.
TL;DR: The issue explored is whether committees are becoming increasingly conservative in their decisions and approaches, with the potential to exclude at least some people with intellectual disability from research.
Abstract: Knowingly or not, every researcher submitting a proposal to a research ethics committee does so in the shadow of the Willowbrook study and other similarly infamous experiments conducted with indivi...
TL;DR: There is a need for policymakers to revisit the guidance on vulnerability in research ethics, and it is proposed that a process of stakeholder engagement would well-support this effort.
Abstract: The concept of vulnerability has held a central place in research ethics guidance since its introduction in the United States Belmont Report in 1979. It signals mindfulness for researchers and research ethics boards to the possibility that some participants may be at higher risk of harm or wrong. Despite its important intended purpose and widespread use, there is considerable disagreement in the scholarly literature about the meaning and delineation of vulnerability, stemming from a perceived lack of guidance within research ethics standards. The aim of this study was to assess the concept of vulnerability as it is employed in major national and international research ethics policies and guidelines. We conducted an in-depth analysis of 11 (five national and six international) research ethics policies and guidelines, exploring their discussions of the definition, application, normative justification and implications of vulnerability. Few policies and guidelines explicitly defined vulnerability, instead relying on implicit assumptions and the delineation of vulnerable groups and sources of vulnerability. On the whole, we found considerable richness in the content on vulnerability across policies, but note that this relies heavily on the structure imposed on the data through our analysis. Our results underscore a need for policymakers to revisit the guidance on vulnerability in research ethics, and we propose that a process of stakeholder engagement would well-support this effort.
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