The Future of Consent

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The Future of Consent Research Aims

The principle of informed consent is probably the most important one in the field of biomedical research and clinical practice. It was developed partly in response to the terrible abuses of medicine perpetrated by the Nazis, partly by way of rejecting paternalistic deception in medicine.  Since the Second World War informed consent has figured as the leading requirement in every code of medical ethics.

In recent years the principle has come under sustained challenge. Some have pointed to the fact that in non-Western cultures, most obviously China, the individual is not accorded the same fundamental importance. Much more value is attached to collective identities. Others have argued that consent can never be 'fully' informed, and have focused instead on the ways in which people actually communicate with one another. Psychologists have argued that individuals are not rational agents who process information and reach simple decisions. Others have suggested that in acute emergencies or in order to promote a great public good it is absurd to require consent from everyone.

This research programme consists of two workshops – one in China and one in the United Kingdom – looking at these challenges, and bringing together philosophers, lawyers, and psychologists from China, North America, Australia, Scandinavia, and the United Kingdom to explore the issues.

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