Balancing the quality of consent

Journal of Medical Ethics 24 (3):182-187 (1998)
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The rule that one must obtain informed consent is well established in medical ethics and an intrinsic part of clinical practice and of research in biomedicine. However, there is a tendency that the rule today is being applied too rigidly and with too little sensitivity to the values that are at stake in connection with different kinds of research protocols. It is here argued that the quality of consent needs to be balanced against variables such as degree of confidentiality and importance of values at stake, in order to be ethically acceptable. Appropriate information and consent procedures should be adjusted accordingly. Three levels are suggested, ranging from extensively informed consent with both written and oral information, through informed refusal with only a limited amount of information given to, at the other end of the scale, just making relevant information available



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