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BACKGROUND: The informed consent process in clinical trials has been extensively studied to inform the development processes which protect research participants and encourage their autonomy. However, ensuring a meaningful informed consent process is still of great concern in many research settings due to its complexity in practice and interwined socio-cultural factors. OBJECTIVES: This study explored the practices and meaning of the informed consent process in two clinial trials conducted by Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in collaboration with the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. METHODS: We used multiple data collection methods including direct observervations, in-depth interviews with study physicians and trial participants, review of informed consent documents from 2009 to 2018, and participant observation with patients' family members. We recruited seven physicians and twenty-five trial participants into the study, of whom five physicians and thirteen trial participants completed in-depth interviews, and we held twenty-two direct observation sessions. RESULTS: We use the concept "fragmented understanding" to describe the nuances of understanding about the consent process and unpack underlying reasons for differing understandings. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings show how practices of informed consent and different understanding of the trial information are shaped by trial participants' characteristics and the socio-cultural context in which the trials take place.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Med Ethics

Publication Date





Clinical trial, Inequality, Informed consent, Motivations, Socio-cultural context, Understanding, Vietnam, Humans, Vietnam, Informed Consent, Family, Physicians