Ethics Interlude 2: Respect for Persons

Part 1: Critical understanding.

  1. Clarification. In your own words, explain the basic idea of the “Respect for Persons” principle AND explain one way that the principle of “Respect for Persons” might be misunderstood by someone who has not read the original text of the Belmont report. Given your understanding of the principle, how might you clarify the potential misunderstanding? (~50–75 words)
  • There are two parts to the principle “Respect for Persons” in the Belmont Report (1979). Usually, people define respect for persons as acknowledging and appreciating the person as an individual. In the report, this principle is defined as follow: “The principle of respect for persons divides into two separate moral requirements: the requirement to acknowledge autonomy and the requirement to protect those with diminished autonomy. (The Belmont Report)” The principle wouldn’t be complete without both requirements.

2. Not easy. Applying principles, particularly ethical principles, is rarely easy. Difficulties can include challenges in figuring out how a principle aligns with the specifics of a situation. Difficulties can also include dilemmas: situations where all paths forward involve potential negative consequences. Given the ethical principle of “Respect for Persons,” discuss what might make it “not easy” to apply this principle; in other words discuss difficulties that are associated with applying this principle and/or dilemmas that might arise. (~100–125 words)

  • The “Respect for Persons” principle in the Belmont report clearly states that: “In most cases of research involving human subjects, respect for persons demands that subjects enter into the research voluntarily and with adequate information.(The Belmont Report)” Notice the phrase “In most cases” in the beginning of the quote. The dilemma (Not easy part) came in when the human subjects lack autonomy or are deprived of the opportunity to volunteer. It is very easy to not comply with the principle. Especially when conducting researches involving toddlers who lack or autonomy or prisoner who is deprived of the opportunity to volunteer (examples). In many cases, the researcher needs to reevaluate the situation and make a decision on how to handle this dilemma.

Part 2: Application:

  1. Research example. Choose a reference research situation. For your chosen reference situation, discuss how the “Respect for Persons” principle can be applied. What does acknowledging autonomy and/or protecting those with diminished autonomy look like in your chosen situation? What might be involved in supporting the informed consent that is required when acknowledging autonomy? (~200–250 words)
  • Reference situation 1: Future usability testing activities resembling what you did in Sprint 2.
  • Although our usability testing activity did not concern with this principle too much, it is highly possible that “Respect for persons” can be applied to future sprints resembling what we did. Our users are all autonomous agents that are capable of making choices and volunteered to participate in our study. It is good that we complied with this principle. However, what if the team is asked to do a usability test on baby carriages in future usability tests? That is when “Respect for persons” comes into play. Since babies are not capable of expressing his or her preference on participating the study, the team have to figure out other ways to get consent for the baby to participate in the study. The ideal way to handle this situation is to get consent to through the toddler’s parents because they have guardianship of the baby. It is also important to describe informed consent before using the human subject. Therefore, make sure to explain the details of the test and let the parents understand it is a no risk study done to improve the designs of the baby carriages. It is only moral to use the baby as a subject after the consent of his or her parents because it follows the principle of “Respect for persons”.
  • Design example. Choose a reference design situation — either the interaction design sprint from week 2, a design idea stemming from the ideation/sketching sprint in week 5, OR a product/service that interests you. For your reference situation, discuss how the “Respect for Persons” principle can be applied. What does acknowledging autonomy and/or protecting those with diminished autonomy look like in your chosen situation? What might be involved in supporting the informed consent that is required when acknowledging autonomy? (~200–250 words)
  • During week 5, one of my ideation ideas was on automatic doors. My design was a door that senses direction of motion to detect whether the person is going to enter/exit and it won’t open if it is not necessary. The principle of Respect of persons taught us that to always show respect for an autonomous agent. In other words, giving individuals freedom of will both mentally and physically equals acknowledging autonomy. Considering what my automatic door grants a person: When it opens, it not only gets the person where him or her wants to go but, most importantly, it also acknowledged their autonomy. The Belmont Report clearly states, “To respect autonomy is to give weight to autonomous persons’ considered opinions and choices.” By letting them go to where they wanted to, the automatic doors I ideated follows the principle of respect for persons. This principle can be applied to other automatic doors that are poorly designed. The principle is violated when the door doesn’t open to people coming through. Finally, in order to support informed consent, explaining every possible scenario to people is important (i.e. the door will open in most of the cases, but there is the possibility that it won’t.)

Works Cited:

“The Belmont Report.” HHS.gov. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 15 Mar. 2016. Web. 15 May. 2017.

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