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Corrigan, Oonagh, , . Empty Ethics: The Problem with Informed Consent
2003, Sociology of Health & Illness, 25 (3): 768-792.
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Added by: Rochelle DuFord, Contributed by:

Abstract: Informed consent is increasingly heralded as an ethical panacea, a tool to counter autocratic and paternalistic medical practices. Debate about the implementation of informed consent is constricted and polarised, centring on the right of individuals to be fully informed and to freely choose versus an autocratic, paternalistic practice that negates individual choice. A bioethical framework, based on a principle-led form of reductive/deductive reasoning, dominates the current model of informed consent. Such a model tends to abstract the process of consent from its clinical and social setting. By fleshing out the social process involved when patients and healthy volunteer subjects consent to take part in clinical drug trials, this paper attempts to address the problem arising from the current ’empty ethics’ model. My arguments are substantiated by qualitative interview data drawn from a study I conducted on the process of consent as experienced by participants in clinical drug trials.

Comment: This text is a clear critique of the use of informed consent as a medical-ethical panacea (it could be taught alongside O'neill's "Paternalism and Partial Autonomy" for a more accessible and applied look at the problem of informed consent). It would be useful as a contrast at the end of a unit on informed consent for medical treatment or a unit on clinical research ethics. It is especially good for use in a biomedical ethics or research ethics course aimed at students interested in the health professions.

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Hoffmann, Nimi, , . Involuntary experiments in former colonies: The case for a moratorium
2020, World Development 127.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Abstract: There is a rich literature on the use of medical trials as a model for designing and evaluating the outcomes of social policy interventions in former colonies. Yet social experimentalists have not engaged in a correspondingly vibrant discussion of medical ethics. A systematic review of social experiments shows that few studies explicitly discuss informed consent, or the serious constraints on securing informed consent from impoverished or child participants, particularly in the context of cluster randomization. The silence on informed consent, and in some cases active denial thereof, suggests that it is often considered less important than other elements of experimental design. This matters since involuntary experimentation on vulnerable people violates their personhood, increases the risk of unintended harm, and establishes continuities with colonial experimentation. There is a need to develop more effective mechanisms for regulating social experiments in former colonies. In the interim, scholars in the South have a responsibility to call for a moratorium on experiments.

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