Book review: Rethinking Informed Consent

I mentioned in a previous post that I was currently reading Neil Manson and Onora O’Neill’s book Rethinking Informed Consent in Bioethics (Cambridge University Press, 2007). Not only did I finish it, but I summarised the content for a recent meeting of our Medical Sociology group – see slides, below.

As I hinted in the earlier post, I found it a hugely thought-provoking book. My colleagues, by enlarge, were less impressed – they wanted to know where any engagement was with the extensive literature on the sociological dimensions of consent.

I too have some reservations – I share the authors’ concerns that there is a lot wrong with current informed consent and data protection legislation. They suggest a radically different model for alternative priorities based on consent as waivers to permit clinicians and/or researchers to carry out specific procedures that would not otherwise be allowed in accordance with normal ethical and legal rules. They do close the book with suggestions for a series of more subtle changes, however in keeping with the old joke about someone stopping a local to ask for travel directions, I fear that “you can’t get there from here”.