Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

David Boonin

Second Advisor

Eric Chwang

Third Advisor

Alison Jaggar


Current international guidelines for informed consent in research on human subjects should be revised in order to be more globally applicable. Because many from less developed countries value community to the extent that they would wish to include community in the informed consent process, the foundation and guidelines for informed consent must attend to how community involvement can enhance or impede autonomy. The present provisions for involving community are not specific enough. The reason for this lies in the reliance on the traditional account of respect for autonomy, which overlooks the impact that social structures, or differences in race, class and gender, can have on autonomy. What is needed is a relational account of autonomy that attends to the many ways that social structures affect autonomy. To illustrate how this change would be reflected in policy, I argue for a set of ethical conditions for respecting relational autonomy in research and propose amendments to the current guidelines.