Informed consent is a process through which people 1) learn the important facts about a clinical trial to help them decide whether or not to take part in it, and 2) continue to learn new information about the trial that helps them decide whether or not to continue participating in it.
During the first part of the informed consent process, people are given detailed information about a trial, including information about the purpose of the trial, the tests and other procedures that will be required, and the possible benefits and harms of taking part in the trial. Potential trial participants are given a form, called an informed consent form, which provides information about the trial in writing. People who agree to take part in the trial are asked to sign the form. However, signing this form does not mean that a person must remain in the trial. Anyone can choose to leave a trial at any time—either before it starts or at any time during the trial or during the follow-up period. It is important for people who decide to leave a trial to get information from the research team about how to leave the trial safely.
The informed consent process continues throughout a trial. If new benefits, risks, or side effects are discovered during the course of a trial, the researchers must inform the participants so they can decide whether or not they want to continue to take part in the trial. In some cases, participants who want to continue to take part in a trial may be asked to sign a new informed consent form.