Informed Consent and a Korean Field Trip
The BBC filmed a documentary in North Korea. To get access they posed as members of a London School of Economics student trip to the country. LSE is furious and demands the programme be withdrawn but the BBC argues the students were informed of the risk and gave their consent (although some students deny this). The reporter justified his actions in terms of the evil of the North Korean regime.
Even accepting the BBC’s story, this is a mockery of “informed consent”. The BBC staff that stood to benefit the most from the trip going ahead were the ones who had to assess and explain the risk. The university itself was not consulted, although any future programs they may run are put in jeopardy. Other academic visitors to the country must now be under greater scrutiny – they were also not consulted.
There are clearly risks and benefits associated with any action but the process for weighing them here was very wrong.
Edit: Comments from the director of the LSE.
Edit: Apparently this wasn’t an “official” LSE trip. That certainly reduces but doesn’t eliminate the university’s interest in the subterfuge. I wonder how clear it was to the students or the North Koreans that this was a private group?