Respect for persons is the concept that all people deserve the right to fully exercise their autonomy. Showing respect for persons is a system for interaction in which one entity ensures that another has agency to be able to make a choice.
This concept is usually discussed in the context of research ethics. It is one of the three basic principles of research ethics stated in the Belmont Report issued by the Office of Human Subject Research; it comprises two essential moral requirements: to recognize the right for autonomy and to protect individuals who are disadvantaged to the extent that they cannot practice this right.
An autonomous person is defined as an individual who is capable of self-legislation and is able to make judgments and actions based on his/her particular set of values, preferences, and beliefs. Respecting a person’s autonomy thus involves considering his/her choices and decisions without deliberate obstruction. It also requires that subjects be treated in a non-degrading manner out of respect for their dignity. In practice, respect for persons is operationalized by obtaining Informed Consent from all individuals who are going to be research subjects.