Autonomy in Biomedical Research Ethics

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  • 0:03 Biomedical Research
  • 0:40 Autonomy
  • 1:25 Education
  • 2:13 Research Ethics Questions
  • 3:10 Decision
  • 4:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has a master's degree in cancer biology and has taught high school and college biology.

Autonomy is one of the four basic principles of biomedical research. We will look at what autonomy means, how it works, and why it is important for individuals.

Biomedical Research

Science and medicine have worked very hard to uncover more and more ways for us to live healthy lives. Many of the discoveries about how to take care of the body, repair the body, and treat diseases have come from research. Biomedical research is the completion of experiments that seek to understand how to make a body healthy and keep it that way. This research encompasses everything from the vaccines we get to medications we take to surgeries performed on our bodies. Doctors know how to treat us for certain illnesses based on outcomes from biomedical research. We have advanced and live longer thanks to biomedical research.


It is great that we are benefiting from biomedical research, but there are certain requirements that must be fulfilled in order for it to take place. The studies usually begin in cells or tissues that have been removed from the body. Eventually, the studies must take place inside of people's bodies for us to truly know how well the body will react to whatever is being studied.

How do scientists and doctors determine who is experimented on and who isn't? The answer is, they don't! Well, they don't decide completely on their own. Every person has the right to make an educated decision as to whether or not they want to participate in biomedical research experiments. This ethical right is known as autonomy. We are all individuals and able to choose what will and will not be done to our bodies.


We should bear in mind that we are talking about experiments that are going to be conducted on our bodies. The fact that they are experiments means that scientists and doctors are not completely sure what will happen in the body as part of the research. They have a pretty good idea thanks to tests done in the laboratory and their understanding of how the body works. Whoever is considering participating in a research study should be as educated on it as possible so that they make a sound decision regarding their participation.

What information do they need to know? They should be informed of what the experiment is testing. It is important for those conducting the research study to explain what they are researching to anyone who is considering participating. Every single detail need not be thoroughly explained but enough information is needed so that the person knows why they are in the study.

Research Ethics Questions

It's simply a part of human nature to want to know what to expect before we agree to do something. If friends ask you to go on vacation with them, you are going to have some questions. Where are we going? How long are we going? How are we getting there and back? The same is true for biomedical research studies. Researchers should have the answers to certain questions.

These questions include:

  • What do I have to do?
  • What are you going to do to my body?
  • How long does the study take?
  • What are some possible outcomes in my body?
  • What are the possible long-term effects of being a part of the study?
  • Will there be any side effects?

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