Knowing the Unknown and Informed Consent

International Journal of Applied Philosophy 21 (2):213-223 (2007)
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Abstract

It is now widely accepted that experiments using human subjects without their informed consent is unethical. However, in certain kinds of experiment, such as placebo trials, informing participants about what will happen will invalidate research results. Some authors have suggested that the principle of informed consent has to be modified, others claim that ethical concerns can be set aside in the interest of advancing medical research. I argue that these attempts at justifying withholding information from participants are inadequate. Drawing from a debate in epistemology between so-called internalists and externalists, I claim thatwe can know on a different level that we are not to know certain details about an experiment, and argue that consent given on the basis of such knowledge is informed consent and is ethically sufficient.

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