Original Paper

Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 445-472

First online:

Informed Consent in Cross-cultural Perspective: Clinical Research in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, PRC

  • Vincanne AdamsAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine, University of California Email author 
  • , Suellen MillerAffiliated withSafe Motherhood Programs, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences University of California
  • , Sienna CraigAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, Dartmouth University
  • , SonamAffiliated withWomen’s Division, Mentsikhang Traditional Tibetan Medicine and Astrology Hospital
  • , NyimaAffiliated withWomen’s Division, Lhasa Municipal Hospital
  • , DroyoungAffiliated withWomen’s Division, Lhasa Maternity Child Health Hospital
  • , Phuoc V. LeAffiliated withHarvard Associated Residency in Internal Medicine, Brigham and Women’s HospitalPediatrics Global Health Equity Residency, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
  • , Micheal VarnerAffiliated withMaternal Fetal Medicine, University of Utah School of Medicine

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Procedures of Informed Consent are considered a high priority for international biomedical research. However, informed consent protocols are not necessarily transferable across cultural, national or ethnic groups. Recent debates identify the need for balancing ethical universals with practical and local conditions and paying attention to questions of cultural competence when it comes to the Informed Consent process for clinical biomedical research. This article reports on the results of a two-year effort to establish a culturally appropriate Informed Consent process for biomedical research in the Tibet Autonomous Region in the People’s Republic of China. A team of Tibetan and American researchers, physicians, health professionals and medical anthropologists conducted the research. The Informed Consent was specifically for undertaking a triple-blind, double placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial of a Tibetan medicine compared with Misoprostol for reducing postpartum blood loss. The findings suggest greater need for flexibility and cooperation in establishing Informed Consent protocols across cultures and nations.


Informed consent Cultural competence Tibet Clinical trials protocols