Severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) remains a major cause of death and disability afflicting mostly young adult males and elderly people, resulting in high economic costs to society. Therapeutic approaches focus on reducing the risk on secondary brain injury. Specific ethical issues pertaining in clinical testing of pharmacological neuroprotective agents in TBI include the emergency nature of the research, the incapacity of the patients to informed consent before inclusion, short therapeutic time windows, and a risk-benefit ratio based on concept that in relation to the severity of the trauma, significant adverse side effects may be acceptable for possible beneficial treatments. Randomized controlled phase III trials investigating the safety and efficacy of agents in TBI with promising benefit, conducted in acute emergency situations with short therapeutic time windows, should allow randomization under deferred consent or waiver of consent. Making progress in knowledge of treatment in acute neurological and other intensive care conditions is only possible if national regulations and legislations allow waiver of consent or deferred consent for clinical trials.

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Science and Engineering Ethics
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Kompanje, E. (2007). 'No time to be lost!' Ethical considerations on consent for inclusion in emergency pharmacological research in severe traumatic brain injury in the European Union. Science and Engineering Ethics, 13(3), 371–381. doi:10.1007/s11948-007-9027-4