Letter: Baby `experiments'

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Sir: The question of informed consent is always difficult for emergency situations. If we banned all randomised controlled trials including sick babies we will condemn future children to no prospect of better medical care. What is the best method of obtaining informed consent from distraught parents two to four hours after the birth of their poorly baby?

The authors of the scientific paper on the North Staffordshire trial (Pediatrics 1996; vol 98:pp 1154-1160) report that 36 parents chose not to allow their babies in the trial and also report that two sets of parents withdrew their children from the study after initially giving consent. These facts are reassuring.

Medical ethical standards are changing and I am sure paediatricians are better at getting consent now compared with 10 years ago. Patient (and parent) information leaflets are now inspected by ethics committees and we have all learnt to write in simple, uncomplicated language.


Consultant Geriatrician and Senior Lecturer

Western General Hospital