Ethical Challenges in Short-Term Global Health Training
CASE 10: Understanding Informed Consent for Research

In this case, Rory has learned a few important lessons about informed consent for research conducted abroad as part of a short-term research training experience in global health. The experience not only helped him better understand Dr. Hodari and the community in which he was working, but also enabled him to recognize that respecting individual autonomy through the informed consent process is not "one size fits all."

Indeed the informed consent process can take many forms: with individuals or individuals and their families; via written or oral means; or through pictures, among others. Although this case does not comprehensively cover all the complexities of informed consent in research abroad, it has helped introduce a few of its complexities.

When difficulties arise, trainees should engage with their advisors at sending and host institutions, as well as their research ethics committees, for more advice.

Additional Resources

The United States’ Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues has recently launched a review of research conducted internationally. A report is expected in 2011 and will be accessible at: Accessed 31 May 2011.

Two major ethics bodies have issues comprehensive, though not exhaustive, reviews of ethical issues in international research (including informed consent). See:

Two more recent articles discussing the complexities of consent in international research are:



© Stanford University Center for Global Health and the Johns Hopkins University Berman Institute of Bioethics.

Project funding provided by Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF)