Both the treatment for childhood cancer and the legal requirements for gaining parents' consent to treatment have become increasingly complex. The purpose of the exploratory investigation reported here was to identify influential circumstances surrounding the consent process in the pediatric setting, to describe the relationship of parental anxiety to these factors, and to delineate related practice and research implications. Twenty-eight parents of children entered on one of four protocols for the treatment of newly diagnosed acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and the University of California San Francisco were asked to complete two questionnaires within 48 hours after consenting to treatment: the State-Trait Anxiety Index and the Parent Informed Consent Questionnaire. Results of the study confirmed clinical experience that parents are given complex information and asked to make decisions about their child's life in a highly anxious state. Although participants were generally satisfied with the informed consent process 48 hours after signing a consent form, further research is needed to document how well parents understand and remember key information, as well as the influence of time, experience, and changes in state anxiety on their perceptions of the adequacy of the consent process. In current clinical practice, simple strategies can be applied to improve the informed consent process for families of children with cancer.
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