What Is Consent?

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A new smartphone app aims to help in matters of sexual consent. Developers promise the end of misunderstandings. If only it were that simple. Non-consensual sex is a serious wrong.  But what exactly is consent? Is it something you think or something you do? It’s a question with very real consequences, particularly on campus where administrators are struggling to navigate some complicated cases.

Listen to The Philosopher's Zone episode: On consent: no means no, but does yes mean yes?

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While this scientific work is exciting, and holds promises of a healthier future, the use of human bio-specimens does raise a number of legal, moral, ethical and social issues.

We, the scientists, have the responsibility of safe collection, retention, use and disposal of samples, as well as the protection of the data generated. This enormous task is constantly under scrutiny from numerous local and global committees, empowered by legislation and regulation, but ultimately it all boils down to one thing – informed consent.

When Henrietta’s cells were taken for biopsy, the concept of informed consent was non-existent. Informed consent signifies that the individual has been given full information about the research, its purpose, procedures, risks, benefits and potential outcomes, before they made voluntary decisions about their participation. This seems straightforward but there are concerns that its use does not go far enough...

Continue reading Maninder Ahluwalia's article: Decades on from Henrietta Lacks, we’re still struggling to find an adequate consent model

Further Reading

Informed consent is shorthand for informed, voluntary, and decisionally-capacitated consent. Consent is considered fully informed when a capacitated (or “competent”) patient or research subject to whom full disclosures have been made and who understands fully all that has been disclosed, voluntarily consents to treatment or participation on this basis. In its most important role in bioethics, informed consent is a legitimacy requirement for certain actions. Inadequately informed consent makes certain intrusions impermissible. Roughly, when a sufficiently capacitated adult does not give sufficiently informed and voluntary consent to intervention in her body or her private sphere, then, at least when the intervention is substantial, not trivial, and absent severe jeopardy for third parties, the intervention is impermissible—even when it seeks to assist her, physicians recommend it, third parties would benefit from it, and the patient herself had repeatedly consented to it before expressing a change of mind. When the antecedent is inapplicable, for instance, when the patient lacks decision-making capacity, similarly spirited rules apply, such as rules delegating consent “authority” to the patient's advance directive or proxy...

Continue reading the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Informed Consent by Nir Eyal

Related Topics

If you’re interested in the idea of consent, check out some of the following related topics for more resources:

 Deontological EthicsFreedom | Human Rights | Privacy


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