Ian Chalmers pointed me to a paper on â€œRethinking research ethicsâ€ by Rosamond Rhodes. She basically argues that protection of the vulnerabale (as a major rationale of informed consent) has been leading over the past decades to a â€œtangled web of research policies that are sometimes at cross-purposes with the goals that they should actually promoteâ€ with current research policies â€œtoo often limit research â€¦ and therefore promote practices that are unethical and unreasonable by being harmful, wasteful or bothâ€. She tries to make this clear with footnote 9 â€œParents should certainly protect their children. But, consider the bicycle riding policy that parents would adopt if they took protection to be their primary parental responsibility. Children would not be allowed to ride bicycles because it would subject them to risk of harmâ€ and so on.
While I am always be willing to discuss dogmas, I think that current research policies on informed consent are well developed for many reasons. Voluntary consent in a democratic society is undispensable. Full information is also vital and not only a matter of protecting vulnerables but also of respect of autonomy. Self-determination leaves the proband the choice to participate e.g. sharing the investigators goals or not. Of course we should recognize when â€œinformed consentâ€ is perverted by just filling in another form. With a few exceptions there is no excuse for not having asked for full informed consent.
I am even shivering by her view â€œif the Nazi doctorsâ€™ only ethical failure in their treatment of human subjects involved lack of informed consent, their behaviour would have been no worse than that of their fellow scientists around the worldâ€. Does she really want to affront scientist around the world? Or does she want to downplay the atrocities of the Nazis?
Coming back to her example – has she ever heard about bike helmets? It is my responsibility to minimize harm for the individual, while allowing movement forward. Yea, yea.
Analyzing the log files for this site, I found this page is retrieved frequently every day. Maybe I should expand on this topic?