To cite this article: Susan Bull & Graham Charles Lindegger (2011): Ensuring Consent to Research is Voluntary: How Far Do We Need to Go?, The American Journal of Bioethics, 11:8, 27-29
One fundamental ethical principle underpinning research ethics is that of respect for persons. It requires that researchers respect research participants’ autonomy, interests, and wishes, and act on the presumption that participants are the best judges of what their interests are (Nuffield Council on Bioethics 2002). This presumption obliges us to design consent processes for research that facilitate prospective participants’ free and informed decisions as to whether or not to participate in a study. Guidance and regulation require that researchers abstain from attempting to unduly influence participants’ free decision making by coercion, offering undue inducements, or related activities (Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences 2002; World Medical Association 2008). However, there has been relatively little substantive theoretical or empirical consideration of the voluntariness of consent to research to date (Nelson et al. 2011). Appelbaum and colleagues’ insightful paper elaborates on researchers’ responsibilities when seeking consent, using the legal doctrine of consent as a conceptual framework (Appelbaum, Lidz, and Klitzman 2009). Against this backdrop, Nelson and colleagues (2011) present a comprehensive and useful analysis of voluntariness, with important implications for consent practices. However, we do have reservations about some aspects of their argument.
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