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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 25, 2009

Gender, Diversity, and Difference

Pamela J. Lomelino
Pages 179-194

Reconceptualizing Autonomy to Address Cross-Cultural Differences in Informed Consent

Given the increase in research in less developed countries and the necessary reliance on informed consent guidelines, we should pay close attention to the extent to which these guidelines address important cross-cultural differences. I argue that the current underlying conception of autonomy that is reflected in informed consent guidelines fails to adequately address important cultural differences—namely differences in conceptions of the person. Since this conception directly influences one’s conception of autonomy, the narrowness of the current guidelines demands attention. In examining a conception of the person that is popular in Africa—a less developed country in which much research is currently being conducted—I argue that the current foundation for informed consent should rest on strong relational autonomy in order to be more globally applicable. This revision, in turn, calls for changes to the policies for informed consent.

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