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Feminist Perspectives In Medical Research Ethics: A Philosophical Analysis

Feminist, or medical research ethics is an emerging area of philosophical specialisation. Both are evolving slowly. But there are lots of fascinating facts in Feminist and medical research ethics. There are many other similar things between both of them. Like each of them performs analysis to develop guidance. This is related to the alarming moral conditions of this era. In published literature of each field, we can find frustration, abstraction, and generality. A combo of these things is highly crucial. Because it helps us in characterising philosophical, and ethical frameworks in research.

Both of these concepts deal with the ethical analysis at general level principles. In addition, they provide contextual details about the research life situations with special reference to the concerned persons, or women. In general, the contextual information in both fields is different. But in this article, we will discuss feminist perspective of medical research ethics. Let’s describe the feminist perspectives first.

Feminist perspectives:

Feminist perspectives are the sets of concepts that deal with ethical dissertation research publications criteria. These research projects either use gender analysis, or investigate it as a component of the creative process. The aim of feminist perspectives is to unite activists, artists, scholars, and students to argue on the intersectional perspectives. Feminist perspectives have actually originated from the theory of feminism.

Feminism and Research Ethics

Two scholars named Nel Noddings and Coral Gilligan represented feminism to modernism based models. These models are a part of the moral theory. Further, there are several other authors who described the relationship related ethics. In this field, Nodding and Gilligan’s work presented the alternative feminist approach. This approach is, in true sense, opposite to the European framework ethics. The European ethical framework set principles such as;

  • Rights
  • Consequences
  • Duties
  • Virtues

Kohlberg’s Moral Developmental Theory:

Lawrence Kohlberg, in 1981, formulated a theory to demonstrate the effect of ethical choices on people’s decision making. According to him, all humans grow by passing through six stages of moral development. He added that these six stages of moral development are dependent on each other. Moreover, this moral development has a great impact on cognitive abilities as well. In Kohlberg research, he divided the six stages into three groups. These groups are as follows;

  1. Conventional
  2. Preconvention
  3. Post conventional

The results of this research explained that only a few people arrived at the post-conventional stage. Post-conventional stage is one where people make decisions based on Golden Rules. Among them, women scored lower as compared to men. This is because a prominent factor in women’s decision-making skills is that of fostering relationships.

Research Ethics:

During the 20th century, several movements’ status hierarchies were confronted. In this century, the ethical, or civil rights movements gained importance whereas due to the dismantlement of political colonialism. Likewise, in western societies, the subject-researcher relationship was also challenging in this era. About research ethics, it was decided to involve participatory ethics in the research methodology. In this participatory ethics, the researcher’s research plans are examined by other colleagues. After the colleague’s review, final consent is obtained from the participants. Furthermore, the research ethics are rigid about the participants’ will to be part of the research.

Feminist Approach, and Bio-Medical Research Ethics:

Rogers, in 2006 published a paper on medical research ethics under the light of feminist ethics. One of the biggest problems in medical research ethics of the time was that of gender inequality. Feminism theory allowed them to build a connection between genders, ethics, research, and health. Further, in the same research, he studied the distribution of power. This was related to the health care processes. Feminist perspectives helped him in identifying the women’s problems in the health issues and ways for addressing them as well.

Based on the results of this study, it can be said that feminist perspectives for biomedical research need political commitments. This political commitment must signify the concern for women’s wellbeing as well. But in medical research ethics, we are far away from this vision. Not only in developing countries, but around the world as well, medical research management has been destroyed. Furthermore, lack of funds also has a bad impact on the medical research ethics about women.


Feminist and research ethics are two entirely different perspectives. When we combined them, they helped us in building a connection between the following;

  • Women’s wellbeing
  • Gender discrimination
  • Power enforcement
  • Informed consents related issues.

Further, for the implementation, political commitment, as well as funding with good moral development are necessary.

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