Applying principles of ethics to aging research is more than one project. It consists in part of artfully and ethically responding to the obvious, using accepted principles of ethics. We know, for example, that some persons are impaired, that impairment makes it difficult to get informed consent, and that we ought to take additional measures to protect those persons. We know some of the measures that can be effective in enhancing informed consent or in protecting those who cannot consent.
Some ethical problems are sufficiently identified and articulated, but still lack a satisfactory response around which consensus can be built. There are still open questions about whether the pursuit of the common good should be allowed to override the individual interests of a research subject with a surrogate decisionmaker. Other problems are so new and the science supporting them so seminal that the best interests of society will be served only by a broad base of participation in establishing social policy sufficiently robust to accommodate new research findings in aging. ''Doing ethics'' becomes something more than learning and accepting rules and principles. It also involves active participation in developing that ethics.
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