Is Consent Based on Trust Morally Inferior to Consent Based on Information?

Bioethics. 2017 Jul;31(6):432-442. doi: 10.1111/bioe.12342. Epub 2017 Feb 27.


Informed consent is considered by many to be a moral imperative in medical research. However, it is increasingly acknowledged that in many actual instances of consent to participation in medical research, participants do not employ the provided information in their decision to consent, but rather consent based on the trust they hold in the researcher or research enterprise. In this article we explore whether trust-based consent is morally inferior to information-based consent. We analyse the moral values essential to valid consent - autonomy, voluntariness, non-manipulation, and non-exploitation - and assess whether these values are less protected and promoted by consent based on trust than they are by consent based on information. We find that this is not the case, and thus conclude that trust-based consent if not morally inferior to information-based consent.

Keywords: autonomy; decision-making; informed consent; research; trust.

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / ethics*
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent / ethics*
  • Morals*
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Trust*
  • Virtues