Evaluating models of consent in changing health research environments

Evaluating models of consent in changing health research environments
Scientific Contribution
Svenja Wiertz, Joachim Boldt
Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy, 14 March 2022
Open Access
While Specific Informed Consent has been the established standard for obtaining consent for medical research for many years, it does not appear suitable for large-scale biobank and health data research. Thus, alternative forms of consent have been suggested, based on a variety of ethical background assumptions. This article identifies five main ethical perspectives at stake. Even though Tiered Consent, Dynamic Consent and Meta Consent are designed to the demands of the self-determination perspective as well as the perspective of research as a public good, they are still also criticized from both perspectives. In addition, criticisms based on concerns of justice, participation and democratic deliberation, and relational concerns have been levelled at each of the models. As all of these perspectives have valid points to make, the task at hand lies in balancing these ethical perspectives. What constitutes an adequate balancing depends on contextual factors. These factors include digital infrastructure and digital literacy, data safety regulation, good scientific and clinical practice, transparent debates on ethically relevant features of research, social inequalities, anti-discrimination laws and practices, trust in health care institutions and recognition of patient preferences, and consensus on unethical research. We argue that the role of context in determining acceptable models of consent puts the ethical importance of models of consent into perspective. Since altering contextual factors can help to live up to the ethical concerns at stake in debates about models of consent, opting for such a shift of focus comes without ethical loss.

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