Informed consent is the ethical and legal bedrock of much clinical practice and research involving humans. A paradigm of consent focusing on individual autonomy and self‐determination is dominant and underpins much of the empirical work undertaken. Alongside a focus on seeking to ‘improve’ consent within this framework are alternative perspectives, considering consent in the context of human interaction and communication. Such perspectives highlight the roles and relationships of all involved parties and the complexity of the unfolding discourse. They call for a redefinition of what a successful consent encounter is and for a review of understandings of professional practice and persuasion. Though these issues are touched on by other sociological work, discursive studies highlight the achievement of consent as a proceeding interaction and the involvement and influences of all involved, with implications for professional practice.

Key Concepts:

  • Informed consent has become central to much clinical practice and research involving humans.

  • There are limitations to addressing the challenges of achieving informed consent in practice from within its own frame of reference.

  • Sociological work has emphasised the significance of social contexts and processes in how consent proceeds.

  • Discursive and interactional approaches give further emphasis to the performative and contextual nature of consent interactions, highlighting the roles of all interlocutors.

  • Professionals involved in seeking consent could use insights from discursive work in selecting communicative strategies that best go on to enable their patients and research participants.

Keywords: informed consent; consent; discourse; interaction; medical ethics; autonomy; professional practice; persuasion

Figure 1.

Models and conceptualisations of consent.



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Further Reading

Arribas‐Ayllon M , Sarangi S and Clarke A Genetic testing: accounts of autonomy, responsibility and blame. London: Routledge.

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Sarangi S and Coulthard M (2000) Discourse and Social Life. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.

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Shipman, Hannah E(Dec 2013) Consent‐in‐Interaction. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0025146]