A Reflection on Protecting Human Subjects in Research
Discuss at least three of the following in your paper:
- Describe the circumstances that influenced the need for a policy to protect human research subjects. Give examples of specific ways human research subjects can be harmed by researchers.
- Identify three vulnerable populations and the special restrictions associated with human research among these groups. Evaluate the requirements and restrictions. Do you think they are adequate? Why or why not?
- The Belmont Report summarizes the ethical principles and guidelines for research involving human subjects. Three core principles are identified: respect for persons, beneficence, and justice. Even though these principles are considered equal, prioritize them in order of importance to you. Explain your decisions.
A vital tenet in conducting research is protecting the welfare and rights of the participants. In recent decades, tremendous achievements have been made in altering the research culture to include more ethical responsibilities in the development and implementation of the study. Key aspects in promoting the research ethics include obtaining consent from the participant, ensuring privacy and confidentiality of the participants’ information, and not subjecting the study population to any emotional, physical, or psychological harm (Farrimond, 2017). This paper reflects on the factors that influenced the need for protecting human research subjects, vulnerable populations, Belmont report on ethical guidelines, and the importance of understanding the protections and rights of the participants.
Previously, studies that involved human subjects were characterized by stress, suffering, and danger to the individuals. Although previous guidelines for researchers was to avoid harming the participants, these directives were not respected which resulted in abuses of the participant’s rights. For instance, the Stanford experiment which involved harming the prisoners by the wardens had a negative effect on the participants as it affected their emotional welfare and disorganized their thinking (Zimbardo, 2017). Based on such studies and these harms, the Institutional Review Board developed the federal regulations and Belmont Report to establish the rules for federally funded studies and the independent review (Vervleit, Rousseau, Broekaert, & Derluyn, 2015). These rules that include the protection of human subjects’ rights are widely applied regardless of the funding source.
There are vulnerable populations in research which require special treatment when conducting research. Children do not have a legal age to consent to treatment and particular research procedures. Therefore, their involvement in research is carefully considered including the potential risks and benefits. Parents must also consent to the child’s participation in research (Werhane, Freeman, & Dmytriyev, 2017). Another vulnerable group is that of the veterans where the Veterans Administration directs a high degree of respect to their suffering and service. Prisoners are also vulnerable populations due to the effects of their confinement which compromises their ability to exercise freely. Depending on the population category, there are specific ethical aspects that must be met prior to involving the individual in the research. The level of these social restrictions is not sufficient since the participants are faced by a certain degree of compromise. For instance, the participation of children to research obtains consent from the parent which in actual sense assumes the individual’s decisions.
The Belmont Report, three core principles are respecting the person, beneficence, and justice. In order of importance, these principles should follow the respect, justice, and beneficence format. Respect is the first aspect since it involves a direct relationship with the individuals where they should be treated as autonomous (Amon, Baral, Beyrer, & Kass, 2012). In addition, no research should kick off without establishing all the participant protections. The second principle in this regard is justice where the selection process of the research respondents should be comprehensively scrutinized to establish if classes, ethnic minorities, and those confined to institutions should be carefully selected. In the last principle, which entails beneficence, no harm should be exposed to the participant even after ascertaining that they are fit for the research. In addition, the research should focus on maximizing the benefits while reducing the harms. Essentially, understanding all the rights and protections of the patients assist in selecting the best respondents for the study and protecting their rights even if one is not involved in the study.
In summary, a key tenet in research is ethics especially in cases where the study involves human participants. As outlined in the Belmont Report, researchers should ensure no harm is brought to the participant and that all the requirements for the respondents’ participation are met. In addition, vulnerable groups including prisoners and children should be provided special treatment to promote their welfare.
Amon, J. J., Baral, S. D., Beyrer, C., & Kass, N. (2012). Human rights research and ethics review: protecting individuals or protecting the state?. PLoS medicine, 9(10), e1001325.
Farrimond, H. (2017). The ethics of research. The BERA/SAGE handbook of educational research, 72-89.
Vervliet, M., Rousseau, C., Broekaert, E., & Derluyn, I. (2015). Multilayered ethics in research involving unaccompanied refugee minors. Journal of Refugee Studies, 28(4), 468-485.
Werhane, P. H., Freeman, R. E., & Dmytriyev, S. (Eds.). (2017). Cambridge Handbook of Research Approaches to Business Ethics and Corporate Responsibility. Cambridge University Press.
Zimbardo, P. G. (2017). On the ethics of intervention in human psychological research: With special reference to the Stanford prison experiment. Cognition,().