Informed Consent and Research

Now that we’ve discuss the role of consent in paternalism (i.e., whether the patient is competent or rational enough to give consent) and in medical research (both Levine’s concerns about different understandings of consent and Brandt’s analysis about the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and it’s injustices), I want you to think about this consent and vaccines as a more applied case.

The focus is specifically on COVID-19 vaccinations, but the question of mandatory vaccinations is a broader topic that includes questions of informed consent, paternalism (strong or weak), and the moral relationship between individual autonomy and collective goods (such as herd immunity; also think Mill).

Prompt: Drawing on material from our discussions of informed consent (Levine and Brandt) and paternalism (Goldman/Ackerman) as well as any of the moral theories we’ve discussed,  answer the following question:

Should COVID-19 vaccines be mandatory? Explain. (Exclude cases of exemption, such as those with religious exemptions or those who be immuno-comprised and have to avoid it).


Levine argues that there are two major positions for how ethical standards for informed consent ought to operate: there are universalists and there are pluralists. Briefly describe the difference between these two positions.

Brandt’s argues that there is a difference between a study in nature and an experiment. What is the difference?