Chapter 2: Ethical Guidelines for Human Research
This chapter provides a quick outline of scientific and research methods, the pitfalls we as humans have when conducting experiments and interpreting results, and the tools to correct for those shortcomings so that we may draw meaningful conclusions from our studies and data. The facile discussion on ethics and informed consent left me with some questions.
What exactly is informed consent?
Informed consent on its surface is a simple enough concept. A researcher communicates with the participant about the experiment and what to expect. The participant then can decide to take part in the study and give his consent or decline. I found a rigorous treatment and discussion of the latest thinking about the nature of consent at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Perhaps the most important feature of informed consent is voluntarism. That is to say, participants should not be coerced or bribed into giving consent via force, trickery, or given compensation well above a person's income.
The authors claim that the Tuskegee study "could never be performed today, at least not in the United States." The Participants in research trials are protected by an Institutional Review Board, which insists that researchers acquire informed consent from the participant. What does it mean for research subjects if the study is not in the United States?
So, can a Tuskegee or, if you pay attention to the news, a Guatemala happen again today in other parts of the world? I would argue that yes, given the trend of globalization in research trials and the lack of oversight, abundance of corruption, and vulnerability of the participant pool to coercion and inducement in developing economies greatly increases the likelihood of more horrific and shameful human trials. It takes more than just informed consent to conduct and ensure others are conducting ethical human experiments.