Pubdate: Tue, 17 Sep 2002
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Page: A16
Copyright: 2002, The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Mark Thotnton
Bookmark: (Heroin)


Toronto -- I must disagree with Louis Charland's view that heroin addicts 
cannot give voluntary consent to participate in research where they are 
given heroin free of charge (Heroin Study Violates Ethics, Academic Says -- 
Sept. 16). If a heroin addict intends to maintain his or her addiction, 
then such consent is certainly voluntary.

Prof. Charland evidently confuses voluntary consent with the quite 
different notion of having the willpower to refuse consent. But in fact if 
someone prefers to do what he can do rather than what he cannot do, then 
doing what he prefers is voluntary, though he may be said to lack the power 
or freedom to choose otherwise. It is also obvious that a heroin addict's 
consent is competent and informed, since he or she knows exactly what 
taking heroin involves.

Mark Thotnton, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto
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