Competence, Voluntariness, and Oppressive Socialization: A Feminist Critique of the Threshold Elements of Informed Consent

Dominic Sisti
University of Pennsylvania
Joseph A. Stramondo
San Diego State University
Feminists have argued that oppressive socialization undermines the liberal model of autonomy. We contend that this argument can also be employed effectively as a challenge to the standard bioethical model of informed consent. We claim that the standard model is inadequate because it relies on presumptions of procedural autonomy and rational choice that overlook the problem of how agents are often socialized so that they adopt and internalize oppressive norms as part of their motivational structure. The argument that oppressive socialization undermines liberalism’s view of autonomy is most relevant to what Beauchamp and Childress call the threshold elements of informed consent—competence and voluntariness. We show how these elements fail to account for morally relevant factors such as oppressive socialization.
Keywords bioethics  feminist bioethics  informed consent  relational autonomy  oppressive socialization  principles of biomedical ethics
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