Privacy and Biomedical Research: A Role-based Approach
The standard approach to privacy generally and to privacy in biomedical ethics in particular is the rights-based approach. In this approach privacy is thought of as a right, which entails a duty on others’ part to respect a person’s privacy. However, the rights-based approach presupposes a certain social arrangement in which conflicts and discords are fore-grounded, and co-operation and social solidarity have no role to play. Such presupposition undermines the noble aims of biomedical research and leads to legal privacy provisions that are cumbersome and counterproductive. By contrast, the role-based approach puts privacy in the context of fulfilling social roles and trust in others to fulfill their social roles. While this approach may not lead to the right amount of protection of privacy generally, it is arguably a better approach for privacy in the biomedical context.