Community Opinions

COMMUNITY OPINION:The dependence of a free people on informed consent

Edward Huston writes that the word consent is key to the relationship between people and its government.

This community opinion was written by resident Edward Huston. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.

 

“Our founding fathers fought against tyranny to realize the dream of a great and free nation. It is time for the free people of the greatest nation on earth to stand up for our freedom to choose what’s healthy for our own bodies…” (Del Bigtree)

What is informed consent and why is it central to the freedom of our nation’s citizens?

Consent: The dictionary says that consent is the permission given by a person for something to happen or the agreement to do something. The first important point is that consent is something which is given by a person. If something is taken from or coerced, it is not consent. Consent is the willingness of a person, or of families or communities made up of persons, to allow something to be done for them, something to be done to them, something to be given or shared by them, or something to be accomplished with their participation.

It always involves persons. Therefore, it always involves the intentions and motivations of those persons. Consent is relational. And because it is freely given, it must be earned by the person or agency to whom it is given. Thus, consent takes time and the consideration of the motives and integrity of the entity to whom the consent is given. As with all free decisions, consent is offered by persons only when they believe that what they permit will be of benefit to themselves or those they care about.

The United States Declaration of Independence says about the governments of nations, “That to secure these Rights [Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness], Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.”

These are powerful words and were, of course, the central motivating force behind the founders’ ‘Declaration’ and the eventual armed battle for their freedom. The word consent herein is key to the relationship between a people and its government. The American people give consent to be ruled by those in government positions, and the government officials respond within the established bounds of that consent. When this trust is violated( i.e., actions are taken for which consent has not been freely given) the people have the right to break that relationship and replace it with one in which consent is again freely offered.

Informed: Informed means having accurate, truthful and, to the extent possible, complete knowledge of a subject or situation. In our age of specialization, being informed on a subject demands reliance on skilled and educated experts. Information from experts must include the characteristics of transparency, timely reporting, bad as well as good news, and be provided from a variety of sources –both in terms of expertise and philosophical perspective.

Remember, consent, by definition, is freely offered. When experts and agencies violate the principle of adequately informing the citizenship, consent cannot be given – and should not be given. It is the responsibility of those possessing the knowledge to earn the trust of those from whom they ask consent.

So, what should you, fellow citizens, do? First, realize that many before you have paid the price for your right to informed consent. That right is rare in the world. Second, understand that by exercising your right to informed consent in decisions for you and your family you are strengthening the properrelationship between a free people and its elected officials.

The ‘True Informed Consent’ resolution recently proposed by San Benito County Supervisor Peter Hernandez was an attempt to better secure this trust relationship regarding giving consent to receive vaccinations.

Thomas Jefferson addressed the importance of informed consent in an 1820 letter: “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”

Jefferson made it clear that the solution to an ‘unenlightened people’ is education, not taking power from them. So, dear fellow citizen, become educated, then thoughtfully choose whether to offer your informed consent.

It is your right as an American.

Edward Huston