Objectives: To review the historical perspective of informed consent in clinical practice and research as it pertains to human subjects.
Data sources: Published professional journals, books, case law, and the internet pertaining to the historical development of informed consent.
Conclusions: The history of informed consent is complex. Informed consent as a fundamental principle of clinical ethics has developed within the past 50 years. Full disclosure and shared decision making have not come naturally to clinicians. Consequently, respecting the autonomy of patients and research subjects requires a conscious, sustained effort by clinicians.
Implications for nursing practice: Knowledge of the history of informed consent is important for practicing cancer nurses to ensure they understand the significance of preserving patient autonomy and advocate for the patient and research subject.