From voluntary consent to visual consent

Informed consent lies at the heart of ethical research involving human subjects. However, the traditional consent form that participants are asked to sign is not always appropriate, such when the research involves young children or vulnerable individuals.

During an internship in Cameroon, Jennifer Thompson, a PhD candidate in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University, contributed to the advancement of research ethics by exploring possible ways of creating a visual consent form using images.

Her experiences led to the development of visual tools to facilitate informed consent.

Thompson's internship was supervised by Dr. Shende Kometa from the University of Bamenda, and was conducted in collaboration with Dr. Mónica Ruiz-Casares from McGill University. Jennifer Thompson facilitated workshops with school children aged 11-12 and 15-16 from Buéa and Bamenda.

The children were asked to take photographs illustrating the concepts found in consent forms, such as the objectives and process of the research, the risks and benefits for participants, the voluntary nature of participation and confidentiality. The results were then discussed as a group. Jennifer Thompson also held workshops for researchers and students from universities in Buéa and Bamenda.

Her experiences helped her to understand the ethical challenges that arise in a context such as Cameroon, and led to the development of visual tools to facilitate informed consent, in particular for research involving children and vulnerable individuals.