Informed Consent in Africa – Integrating Individual and Collective Autonomy

Informed Consent in Africa – Integrating Individual and Collective Autonomy
Research Ethics Forum Series
Retha Visagie, Soné Beyers, J. S. Wessels
Social Science Research Ethics in Africa, 24 May 2019; 7 pp 165-179
Free, prior informed consent is a universally acknowledged ethical requirement for research with human participants. In social sciences, informed consent guidelines are mostly critiqued for its inherent universalism and support of the individualised principlist notion of autonomy. Therefore, social science researchers working with rural communities in Africa cannot ignore the values, concepts and theories relevant to collective autonomy. This chapter advocates for an integrated informed consent approach founded on Afro-communitarianism. We argue that the process of obtaining free, prior informed consent is deeply entrenched in cultural values. A one-size-fits-all approach to informed consent is in itself a form of disrespect for those concerned. The significant contribution of the chapter is a comparative analysis of individual and collective autonomy as it pertains to informed consent from two theoretical perspectives, namely principlism and Afro-communitarianism. We hope to encourage social researchers working in these settings to consider an African perspective on how to preserve participant autonomy.

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