Electronic Consent to Health Research in Canada

Consent has long been considered as the crystallization of the researcher’s duty to inform research participants. Indeed, providing consent is based on the right of participants to exercise full autonomy in decisions affecting their personal privacy. That being said, as the number of participants recruited in large-scale longitudinal studies – for example – grows, obtaining and maintaining consents will become increasingly onerous and complex. Hence, research studies are gradually using interactive, electronic media for consent procedures – which are seen as more accurate, dynamic and cost-effective. It is unclear, however, how and under what conditions such an approach will satisfy the legal and ethical requirements related to consent to health research in Canada. This article explores how the notion of written consent could be broadened to allow for an electronic consent approach – an approach which holds promise of new efficiency for health research, but that may raise a novel set of ethical, legal and social considerations.

This content has been updated on December 16, 2015 at 15 h 27 min.