Educational Research Journal


1987.第2卷(Vol. 2).pp. 104–108


A Philosophical Analysis of the Principle of Informed Consent in Education Research

文思慧(Si-Wai MAN)




One chief aim of this paper is to solve the 2 puzzles which may cause trouble to the application of the "Principle of Informed Consent" to adjudicate the ethical standard of educational researches. The puzzles are: (1) Does it make sense to talk of informing research subjects when they cannot comprehend what they are informed about? and (2) In institutions such as schools where "authority" often plays a part in defining the relationship involved, does it make sense to speak of "consent" which implies voluntariness? Our solutions include a preliminary demonstration of the importance of respecting the right to informed consent of educational research subjects through utilizing different ethical arguments. This is followed by showing that in spite of the initial puzzles, the right to informed consent should be taken care of in all cases — even though it means sometimes researchers have to respect that right by fulfilling their "meta-obligations" instead of "obligations". The paper ends with further clarification of the meta-obligation of the researchers by elucidating the issues in terms of an important concept in social philosophy — paternalism.