Ethical Issues Involving Humans


Controlling Ethical issues

Ethical issues arise when there is conflict between how research should be carried out, and the methodolgical consequences observing this

  • Ethcal research means upholding ethcial guildlines 
  • treating patients with respect
  • have concern for patients well being
  • not abusing the trust of patients 

Ethical guidlines set by the BPS and ethical committees attempt to make sure people withhold ethical rules 

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This is an issue as it involves not telling participants the true aims of the study.

Milgrams study had this ethical issue as he told particpants the study was about learning/ punishment when it was actually a study of obedience.

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Informed Consent

This involves giving permission to take part in a study in which you know the purpose.

In Rosenhan's study he did not get informed consent because the participants weren't even involved in the study. 

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Protection from Harm

Participants must be protected from harm whilst they are involved in a study.

In Milgrams study, some of the participants had fits and seizures and after the study some participants may have suffered emotionally due to the knowledge that they were capable of actually 'killing' someone. 

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Right to Withdraw

Anyone must have the right to withdraw from a study at any time they wish to do so. 

In Zimbardo's experiment it was made really difficult for the participants to leave which is highly unethcial. 

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Confidentiality and Privacy

These are important ethical issues.

Peoples private information must always be secure 

People must only be observed in places they expect to be observed.

Middlemist had a hugh privacy issue with his research as he observed particpants in toilets without their knowledge.

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Dealing with them; Deception and Informed consent

Ethcial issues can be dealth with by adering to ethical guildlines and ethical committee's advice.

  • With regards to deception; ethical guidlines suggest it should be avoided wherever possible.
  • With informed consent; has been suggested that research should be sure that they have gained true consent, unlike Zimbardo's study where participants were breifed in advance that it is difficult to be sure if the true nature of the study was grasped, and thus consent may not be fully informed. 
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Protection, confidentiality, right to withdraw

  • Particpants should always be protected from harm, and the risk of harm should be no greater than that in real life.
  • In accordance with the Data Protection Act, the information disclosed during research should be kept completely confidential.
  • Participants right to withdraw must be clearly communicated onset of the research 
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Cost-Benefit Analysis

This involves the dilemma of participants v's scientific benefit.

Often it is assumed that if the scientific benefit will be high for society then it's okay to put participants into research with high ethical costs.

This has been proven effective but often it's hard to predict the outcomes of research, such as in Milgrams experiment when it was predicted that 3% would go to 450V when in fact 65% did. 

Also, it was not predicted that participants that participants would react in the way they did, such as having fit's and seizures 

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Ethical issues often limite the amount of research which can be doe and therefore the amount of scientific knowlegde which can be gained. 

It is often the case that if we can be sure that the knowledge gained will be high and beneficial to the human race then ethical issues, as long as they are not too high, can be allowed. 

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