Informed Consent and Ethical Research [BOOK CHAPTER]
Margit Sutrop, Kristi Lõuk
Handbook of Research Ethics and Scientific Integrity
Springer, 2 April 2020; pp 213-232
Although today valid informed consent is considered key to ethical research, there is no agreement on what constitutes adequate informed consent. Problems ensue firstly from the circumstance that a principle adopted in one area of inquiry (biomedicine) cannot be extended literally to other areas of science. In addition, new areas of scholarly inquiry and changing research contexts contribute to the emergence of new forms of consent (open, broad, dynamic, meta-consent). A second difficulty derives from an overly narrow understanding of the concept of autonomy, resulting in an absolutizing of individual freedom and choices and relegating more collective values such as reciprocity, responsibility, and solidarity to the background.
In this chapter, we explain the origin of the concept of informed consent, what it consists of, and what forms it can take. We will then analyze what has caused shifts in the understanding of the informed consent principle: how much is due to advancements in science and technology and how much to changing ethical frameworks. Finally, we will show why it is important to develop a contextual approach by taking into account differences in research fields as well as types of research.