Assent: going beyond acknowledgement for fair inclusion

Journal of Medical Ethics 49 (7):487-488 (2023)
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In her article Reification and assent in research involving those who lack capacity, Anna Smajdor shows how excluding adults with impairments of capacity (AWICs) to protect them from the risks of medical research has the paradoxical effect of harming them by reifying them.1 While the medical risks of excluding vulnerable populations in general from medical research are well known, the main risk being the creation of therapeutic orphans, the risk of reifying these populations is less discussed. Hence, we commend Smajdor for introducing an essential nuance in the debate on inclusion of AWICs in medical research. We also agree with her on the importance of acquiring assent from those who cannot legally consent rather than automatically excluding them from research, as we already do in paediatric research. However, we believe that she fails to acknowledge some practical challenges already observed in paediatric research that hinder the retrieval of assent from AWICs and, consequently, their inclusion in medical research. In this commentary, we will first introduce the main challenge to using assent to include AWICs in research, that is, the fact that individuals might oscillate within the capacity spectrum. We will then provide other examples of practical obstacles to the inclusion of AWICs …



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Assent and reification: a response to the commentators.Anna Smajdor - 2023 - Journal of Medical Ethics 49 (7):495-496.

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