Limning the Semantic Frontier of Informed Consent

Washington, Harriet A.

It is the researcher’s responsibility to provide accurate, complete, and unbiased verbal and written information yet, as this essay discusses, challenges to meaningful research consent abound in the communication between researcher and subject. This discussion of these challenges is far from exhaustive, but it will flag some of the potholes that researchers must anticipate on the sometimes rocky road to eliciting meaningful consent. These hazards include unfamiliar scientific terms and connotations, divergent conceptions of medical history and science, the conscious and unconscious deploying of rosy adjectives with which scientists sometimes “sell” a study in lieu of describing it, semiotics that magnify the therapeutic illusion, and legal maneuvers that bypass consent altogether.


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The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics

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November 10, 2016