Informed Consent in Sub-Saharan African Communal Culture: The

University essay from Linköpings universitet/Centrum för tillämpad etik


Some scholars argue that the principle of voluntary informed consent is rooted in the Western ethos of liberal individualism; that it would be difficult to implement this requirement in societies where the norms of decision-making emphasize collective rather than individual decision-making (for example, Sub-Saharan Africa); that it would amount to “cultural imperialism” to seek to implement the principle of voluntary informed consent in non-Western societies. This thesis rejects this skepticism about the possibility of implementing the informed consent requirement in non-Western environments and argues that applying the principle of voluntary informed consent in human subjects’ research in Sub-Saharan African communal culture could serve as an effective measure to protect vulnerable subjects from possible abuses or exploitations. The thesis proposes the “multi-step” approach to informed consent as the best approach to the implementation of the principle in the African communal setting. The thesis argues that the importance of the “multi-step” approach lies in the fact that it is one that is sensitive to local culture and customs. On the question of whether the principle of voluntary informed consent should be made compulsory in research, the thesis answers that we have no choice in the matter.

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