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Response or Comment

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Almost nobody favors long consent forms for prospective research subjects. Almost everybody thinks they interfere with informed consent's purpose-good decisions. Nevertheless, almost everybody believes consent forms have long been getting longer. Years ago, Paul Appelbaum lamented the "tendency to cram ever more information into consent forms." Weeks ago, Ilene Albala and her colleagues (one of them Appelbaum) reported in IRE: Ethics & Human Research that the length of one institutional review board's forms "increased roughly linearly by an average of 1.5 pages per decade. In the 1970s, the average consent form was less than one page long and often only a paragraph or two, but by the mid-1990s the average form had increased in length to over 4.5 pages." Similarly, "Baker and Taub demonstrated that the mean length of consent forms nearly doubled between 1975 and 1982. More recently, Beardsley and colleagues in Australia found that the median length of consent forms increased from seven to 11 pages between 2000 and 2005."


Reprinted with the permission of the Hastings Center Report and Wiley-Blackwell.