University of Massachusetts Medical School Faculty Publications


An exploratory study of therapeutic misconception among incarcerated clinical trial participants

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry; Systems and Psychosocial Advances Research Center

Publication Date


Document Type



Bioethics and Medical Ethics


BACKGROUND: Therapeutic misconception, the misunderstanding of differences between research and clinical care, is widely prevalent among non-incarcerated trial participants. Yet little attention has been paid to its presence among individuals who participate in research while incarcerated.

METHODS: This study examined the extent to which seventy-two incarcerated individuals may experience therapeutic misconception about their participation in one of six clinical trials, and its correlation with participant characteristics and potential influences on research participation.

RESULTS: On average, participants endorsed 70% of items suggestive of therapeutic misconception. The tendency toward therapeutic misconception was significantly higher among: African Americans and Latinos compared to Whites; older and less educated participants; enrollment in a substance abuse-related trial; and correlated with a belief that the trial was the only way to obtain needed treatment.

CONCLUSIONS: Therapeutic misconception may be particularly high among select incarcerated individuals and is associated with a perceived lack of treatment options. Further examination of therapeutic misconception among incarcerated research participants is needed.


incarceration, informed consent, prisoners, therapeutic misconception, vulnerable populations

DOI of Published Version



AJOB Empir Bioeth. 2016;7(1):24-30. Epub 2015 Jun 24. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

AJOB empirical bioethics

PubMed ID