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Book and Media Reviews
June 23 2010

The Ethics of Consent: Theory and Practice

JAMA. 2010;303(24):2529-2533. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.849

This is the most important book on consent in at least 20 years, but most clinicians will not have the endurance to read it from cover to cover. However, at least those who consider themselves leaders in medicine need to put forward the time and energy. The 15 chapters include some of the best and most well-known authors on the topic. The starting premise is that medical consent must be embedded in a broader understanding of the role of consent in human culture.

The book is divided into 2 parts: 7 chapters on theoretical perspectives, followed by 8 chapters on applying consent theory to areas ranging from sexual relations to political theory and business as well as to medicine. The idea is that it is critical to understand the broadest, most theoretical aspects of consent. Similarities and dissimilarities from one area of application to another must be understood. For example, consent is deficient in medicine if it is not adequately informed and documented, but in sexual relations neither is normally required.

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