Key messages

• Research in intensive care is difficult owing to complex clinical situations, differing populations, and small numbers.

• Research in emergency life-threatening situations requiring immediate treatment in patients who are unable to communicate and where there is not time to look for relatives or any legal representatives can be conducted without consent under certain conditions.

• The problem of consent remains difficult, but clearly there is a case for carrying out research without consent provided that the proper procedures of a stringent, ethical, and scientific research ethics committee have been followed.

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