Bioethics Blogs

One Success in Research Ethics

Research ethics committees often behave unethically

. One example is their failure to understand the ethical basis for obtaining consent and the appropriate limitations. There is a simple rule – “get consent”. I discuss this in greater detail in Bioethics: Why Philosophy Is Essential to Progress, JME 40th Anniversary Issue.

But ethics is more complicated than this. It involves the weighing of different ethical reasons. Sometimes, those reasons can speak overall in favour of not obtaining consent in the way prescribed by various ethical guidelines. Deliberation is required. It is import to also consider the value of good research.

I was Chair of the Department of Human Services Victoria Ethics Committee between 1998-2002, I tried to improve various aspects of research review. You often don’t know if anything you do has any beneficial effect. But recently, Pam Snow came up to me after a lecture. I couldn’t remember her but she kindly told me her story. Here it is. I am relating it as a case study in how “deliberative” research ethics review can actually do some good. I asked her to put her thoughts in writing to show how ethicists can work with researchers to find a way to bring about a good outcome.

Dear Julian

It was nice to meet you this evening.

As per our chat, I wanted to acknowledge the very significant contribution you made in the early days of our research into the oral language skills of young people in the youth justice system.

By way of context, I’m qualified in both speech pathology and psychology, and back in the late 1990s was working in a child and adolescent mental health research role with a focus on drug and alcohol misuse.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.