Informed Consent in the Fields of Medical Technological Practice

Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology 10 (1):16-29 (2006)
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Abstract

Technological developments often bring about new risks. Informed consent has been proposed as a means to legitimize the imposition of technological risks. This principle was first introduced in medical practice to assure the autonomy of the patient.The introduction of IC in the field of technological practice raises questions about the comparability of the type of informed consent. To what extent are thepossibilities to include laypeople in making decisions regarding risks similar in the technological field to giving informed consent in the medical field and whatdoes this imply for the design and implementation of IC in the technological field? Medical and the technological practice are clearly alike in that both fieldsare characterized by highly specialized, technical knowledge which can be quite inaccessible to the average layperson. However, a fundamental difference ariseswith regard to the aim, knowledge of risks and exclusiveness of the practices in each field. The differences in aim imply that the necessity for each practice isperceived differently by laypeople, thus leading them to assess the respective risks differently. The differences in knowledge of risks arise from the variabilityin the ways that can be used to describe a given risk. Definition of risk in medical practice is more homogenous in this respect than the risk definition intechnological fields. Futhermore, medical practice tends to be more exclusive, leading laypeople immersed in that practice to necessarily embrace most of thefundamental underlying that practice. These differences result in divergent recommendations for the implementation of informed consent in the technological field, basically: there is a need for more extensive procedure and for less decisive authority for the individual.

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Lotte Asveld
Delft University of Technology

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